Last night I learnt the French equivalent of the English idiom, to sit on the fence (to be undecided in opinion, or neutral in action) – ménager la chèvre et le choux [source], or “to keep the goat and the cabbage”. This phrase is also translated as “to face both ways”, “to keep everyone happy”, “have a foot in both camps” and “to play both ends against the middle”.
As a verb ménager means to handle carefully, to treat considerately, to take care not to hurt sb’s pride, to take care of, to look after or to arrange. As an adjective it means household, domestic, housework, housewife or canteen. The related noun, ménage, means household, housework or housekeeping.
Expressions including ménager and ménage include:
- ménager ses forces – to save one’s strength
- ne pas ménager – to spare no effort.
- robot ménager – food processor
– appareil ménager – domestic appliance
- jeune ménage – young couple
- argent du ménage – housekeeping money
- chef de ménage – head of the household
- chocolat de ménage – plain chocolate
- (mal)heureux en ménage – (un)happily married
– ménage à trois
- (grand) ménage de printemps – spring cleaning
Etymology: ménager and ménage come from the Old French word manoir (to remain, stay, dwell, reside), from the Latin manēre / maneo (same meaning as manoir) [source], from the Proto-Indo-European root *men- (to stay) [source], which is also the root of the French words maison (house) and manoir (manor house), of the English word manor, and of mansion, which is found in French and English.