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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French expression of the Day: Il n’y a pas le feu au lac

This expression is either Swiss in origin or some French mockery of the Swiss - but is handy in moments of non-crisis.

French expression of the Day: Il n’y a pas le feu au lac
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know il n’y a pas le feu au lac?

In case you are looking for a more creative way to tell the people around you to calm down and stop rushing, or because you are tired of being cut in line at the boulangerie.

What does it mean?

Il n’y a pas le feu au lac – pronounced eel n’yah pah luh fuh oh lack – literally means there is no fire in the lake, but the expression actually means that there is no emergency, or no need to be panicked.

Presumed to be originally Swiss, and a reference to Lake Geneva, the expression pokes fun at the absurdity of water being on fire.

However, some think that the expression is actually intended to gently mock the Swiss for their slower approach to life (quite a common trope in France, although we can’t see anything wrong with taking life at a steady pace).

Use it like this

La femme m’a poussé en essayant de monter dans le métro, alors je lui ai dit “Il n’y a pas le feu au lac, Madame,” – The woman pushed me while trying to get on the metro, so I told her “There is no fire in the lake, ma’am.”

Il n’est pas nécessaire de finir vos devoirs aujourd’hui car ils sont à rendre dans deux semaines. Il n’y a pas le feu au lac. – It is not urgent to finish your homework today because it is due in two weeks. It’s not urgent.

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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

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.

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