No pity for the what? Huh?
So what does that mean?
Ne pas casser trois pattes à un canard. That means to be mediocre; to be nothing out of the ordinary, or no big deal. A bit like ça ne casse rien. (In other words, if there were three legs on that duck, it might be something. But there aren’t three legs on the duck, so no big deal.)
As for the limping duck? Pas de pitié pour les canards boiteux – that, more or less, is “too bad for the guys who don’t care to keep up.” It’s not altogether different from Thoreau’s “marching to a different drummer” except that it takes the opposite stance of having little tolerance for those who don’t follow, or who choose not to.
Personally, I tend to like those who march to their own tune (like lolling loopy in bed, lazing in linguistic latitude?). As for this morning’s (sc)ramble, perhaps I’m suffering from a lack of multilingual (sc)rabble-rousing and carousing. And thus, my modest offering of expressions in other languages, largely en français, to do with animals.
Ever notice how many expressions have to do with your favorite furry friends? Proud as a peacock, slow as a hare, quiet as a mouse. Or are you already running around today like a chicken with your head cut off?
How about: Quand les poules auront des dents – when chickens will have teeth – in other words – never. A bit like “when pigs fly.”
Expressions, Langues, “du Fun”
And if you’re wondering where you can find these and other expressions? There’s expressio.fr which is particularly fun if you love words because it furnishes similar expressions in other languages. It’s a hoot! And some of the differences between Canadian French and French French are irresistible.
In Canadian French (Québecois): C’est no big deal. Really! That’s “no big deal.”
In Belgian French: Il n’y a pas de quoi battre un chat (also no big deal, but literally – it’s not worth beating a cat for!).
In German: Damit lockt main keinen Hund hinter dem ofen hervor, or its equivalent in French – Avec cela on n’attire aucun chien derrière la poele (it’s not good enough to attract a dog to the cooking pan (????) – so again, it means “no big deal” and revenons à nos moutons (return to our sheep, or the subject at hand) – ça ne casse pas trois pattes à un canard !!!
But let’s not stay with the ducks and sheep, might we venture to man’s best friend for a moment?
Sex Appeal or Cat House?
Avoir du chien – (literally, to have some dog) is to be attractive, implying sex appeal. Go figure! And yes, this particular expression is generally reserved for use when speaking of a woman. (“Elle a du chien” – she has a lot of charm.)
And if you really want to confuse things, there’s cette poule a du chien (This chick has plenty of sex appeal – or – this chick has dog), not to be confused with “un chien chaud all-dressed” – Canadian only – for a hot dog with everything!
But be careful. In Canadian French most expressions bearing canines are negative. But let’s not neglect our felines, shall we?
Cat got your tongue? In French French, there’s Donner sa langue au chat – but that’s actually to be unable to guess. You would otherwise have to use the expression perdre sa langue – to lose your tongue. And from my (ahem, expansive) research, it appears the French have no corresponding notion of a cat that has nine lives.
And as long as we’re talking tongue, did you know that referring to a French kiss in French, some say it is un Hollywood kiss, others shrug like we (Americans) are crazy to make a distinction (with or without you-know-what), but Canadian French created a verb: Frencher – to French kiss! (Any additional information on the whereabouts of the French kiss in French, gratefully appreciated…)
Bovine Sciences? Wolf at the Door?
May I add that when it comes to cows, French is a bountiful language? Dare I take a stab at the reason – all those vaches from which those fine French cheeses are made?
There’s dire des vacheries (to say nasty (cow) things). There’s une peau de vache (cow skin, or a nasty person). And must I really add il pleut comme vache qui pisse? (It’s raining cats and dogs, but… it’s really raining like a peeing cow.) There’s O la vache (oh shit!).
I will leave you with a few lupine laments, as I’m feeling hungry for some bread and cheese with my café:
- Avoir une faim de loup – be ravenous
- Se jeter dans la gueule du loup – to expose yourself to great danger; to fall into a trap
Feeling like you’re keeping dangerous company? Alas – best to keep up. After all, I have no pity for the limping duck.
© D A Wolf