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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French phrase of the Day: Trier sur le volet

This expression goes right back to the Middle Ages and has nothing to do with shutters.

French phrase of the Day: Trier sur le volet
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know trier sur le volet ?

Because if someone says they chose you for the job and adds this expression, you should be flattered.

What does it mean?

Trier sur le volet pronounced tree-ay sir luh voe-lay – literally translates to “to sort on the shutter” but its real meaning is closest to the English expression “to separate the wheat from the chaff” or even “to find the diamond in the rough.” It is simply to be specifically picked or chosen, and it carries a positive connotation.

Based on the idea of filtering through several options and choosing the best, this expression has a very logical origin story.

These days volets almost always refers to shutters, but this phrase goes back to the Middle Ages when the “volet” was the word for a cloth that was used to sort seeds. Gradually over time, this cloth was transformed into a wooden plate that was used to sort peas and beans. 

The expression went on to refer to more than just seeds, but at the time it was used frequently to stress the importance of actually selecting the good seeds.

So trier sur le volet means selecting the best.

Nowadays, you might hear this expression being used by a French employer talking about the different candidates she is choosing from, or maybe you’ll hear it as someone discusses their real estate options.

Use it like this

Les joueurs de l’équipe de France de handball ont été triés sur le volet – The players for France’s handball team were carefully selected for the job. 

J’ai finalement trié sur le volet. Amy sera la parfaite stagiaire d’été. – I’ve finally separated the wheat from the chaff. Amy will be a great summer intern.

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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Expression of the Day: Faire d’une pierre deux coups

The most organised of people will likely make use of this handy French Expression.

French Expression of the Day: Faire d’une pierre deux coups

Why do I need to know faire d’une pierre deux coups ?

Because you might want to use this expression after a particularly productive errand-running-day. 

What does it mean?

Faire d’une pierre deux coups – roughly pronounced fair doon pee-air duh koo – translates exactly to “make one rock two shots.” 

If your first instinct is to find it similar to the English expression, “to kill two birds with one stone,” then you would be correct. The French expression carries the same meaning as the English one – which is to achieve two goals at the same time.

The origin of this phrase – for both languages – goes back to the time when people used to hunt with a sling. It would be a great achievement for a hunter to manage to kill two birds with a single stone. 

The expression is still used today, with variations in several different languages, even though most of mankind no longer uses stones to hunt. Nevertheless – it is quite a feat to manage to accomplish two distinct goals in just one action.

Use it like this

J’ai fait d’une pierre deux coups en achetant le cadeau et le repas au même endroit. – I killed two birds with one stone by buying the gift and the meal at the same place.

Vous pouvez faire d’une pierre deux coups en postant votre lettre en même temps que vous récupérez votre colis?  – You could kill two birds with one stone by mailing your letter at the same time as picking up your package?

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