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French Expression of the Day: Bras droit

It can be handy to have a 'bras droit' alongside you. We take a look at the origins of this widely-used French expression.

French Expression of the Day: Bras droit
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know bras droit?

Because any powerful Frenchman needs a reliable one.  

What does it mean? 

Bras droit, pronounced brah dwah, literally means right arm. 

But it is often used figuratively to talk about someone’s right-hand-man — a trusted aid, adviser or confidant. 

The term comes from the fact that traditionally, most people would wield a sword with their right hand. The implication is that a good bras droit will fight for their master. 

Comment le bras droit d’Emmanuel Macron veut garder la main sur la campagne – How the right-hand-man of Emmanuel Macron wants to keep control of the campaign 

Le bras droit de Jean-Luc Mélenchon, s’en prend au groupe TF1 – The right-hand-man of Jean-Luc Mélenchon attacks the TF1 group 

Le colonel, avait été le bras droit du général Lyautey – The colonel was the right-hand-man of General Lyautey

Other French arm expressions 

There are lots of French expressions with the word bras. Here’s our selection of some of the best:

Bras de fer – Arm wrestle (sometimes used as a metaphor for the struggle between two opposing parties)

Force de bras – Manpower

Avoir le bras long – To be well-connected and influential 

Baisser le bras – To stand down 

Coûter un bras – To be expensive 

Lever les bras au ciel – Lifting hands to the sky in surprise or gratitude  

Tendre les bras à quelqu’un – To reach out to someone with open arms

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Chercher midi à quatorze heures

This expression doesn't actually have much to do with lunchtime.

French Expression of the Day: Chercher midi à quatorze heures

Why do I need to know chercher midi à quatorze heures?

Because when someone makes what should take fifteen minutes into an hour-long effort, you might want an appropriate phase.

What does it mean?

Chercher midi à quatorze heures – usually pronounced share-shay-mid-ee-ah-cat-orz-ur – literally means “to look for noon at 2 pm.” When taken literally, the expression does not make much sense. However, in practice, it means “to make a simple thing overly complicated.” It is basically the French equivalent of “don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.”

The expression is quite old, but it is still in use…though it might be more common to find it spoken in the countryside rather than on Twitter.

It was first used as early as the 16th century – the version then was “to look for noon at eleven.” As time went on, it changed to reflect its current form in the 17th century. 

As noon is an important marker for the middle of the day, particularly as l’heure de déjeuner (lunch time), the expression makes fun of making something overly difficult. 

You’ll most likely hear this in the negative command form – as it is something you should probably avoid doing.

Use it like this

Pourquoi avoir pris la route la plus longue pour aller au supermarché ? Ne cherchez pas midi à quatorze heures. – Why take the longest route to get to the supermarket? Don’t overcomplicate things.

Tu n’as pas besoin d’essayer toutes les lettres de l’alphabet pour trouver le Wordle. C’est mieux de penser à des mots simples. Ne cherche pas midi à quatorze heures. – You don’t need to try every letter in the alphabet to get the Wordle. Just think of simple words. Don’t over complicate it.