Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Wordsmith Wednesday: Is that a cat in your throat, or are you just happy to see me?

Welcome to Wordsmith Wednesday (or mercredi manieur de mots), my new feature that, every Wednesday, takes a look at a strange, fun, or just plain weird aspect of the French language that your Rosetta Stone course might have (almost certainly has) omitted.

In today's feature we compare how a few French and English idioms for the same thing differ in one very feline way. For example:

  • While we say "tit for tat" 
    • The French say a bon chat, bon rat: -- to a good cat, a good rat
  • We have "a frog in the throat"
    • Your French friend avoir un chat dans la gorge -- has a cat in the throat
  • We "call a spade a spade"
    • The French appeler un chat un chat  -- call a cat a cat

Hmm. Is it just me, or is there a pattern here? What is it with the French and cats, anyway?  Oh, and by the way, while we're on the subject of cats, what we vulgarly call "pussy" the French call -- you guessed it -- "cat," although this time they make it a feminine cat -- chatte.

We'll explore the bizarre French gendering of animals in a future post --- stay tuned!

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