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‘What is a feather? what is ‘flock’?’ we focused on proverbs at last night’s English/French club meeting, and there was quite a bit that was lost in translation.

The best approximation of ‘Qui se ressemble s’assemble‘  in English – according to my French chums – was ‘Birds of a feather flock together‘. However flock does not exist in French, and feather is a different word too, so there was a bit of explaining on that one.

This was proverb 23 out of about 90 or so.

It was quite a long evening.

My personal favourite was the translation of ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks‘ (or ‘You can’t teach granny to suck eggs‘) which in French is ‘Ce n’est pas à un vieux singe qu’on apprend à faire la grimace‘  – you can’t teach an old monkey how to make faces.

I discovered that they have a specific name for people lacking in the standard number of eyes in France, as ‘In the valley of the blind the one-eyed man is king‘ translated in French to ‘Au royaume des aveugles, les borgnes sont les rois‘. ‘Borgnes’ being the name of a person with one eye.

When they queried me if there was a name for them in English, I dismissed their suggestion of ‘pirate’ (thinking they were kidding) and suggested ‘Cyclops’. They informed me that this would not go down well at all In France, and in fact would be taken as an insult.

So that’s something to keep in mind for this year’s Borgnes Convention.

Probably the highlight of the evening was when we read ‘Les petites ruisseaux font les grandes rivières‘ – little streams can make big rivers. This then had us all googling key words from the English translation of it – myself included.

There are now at least five inhabitants of a sleepy French town who are fully aware of what a ‘mickle’ is in relation to a ‘muckle’.

They are, however, still somewhat unclear on exactly how many mickles it would take to make a muckle, but they get the general idea.