Fence sitting

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.

3 thoughts on “Fence sitting

  1. Off topic: Hi Simon. Seems the Persian numbers page has something. The Latin transliteration for the numbers from 21 to 1000 do not coincide with the Farsi reading. Sounds it is like another language is transliterated here.

  2. I used the Farsi page as a template and got distracted with something else before finishing the Persian numbers page. I’ve finished it now.

  3. It is very interesting to see how two close languages such as French and English, in some expressions they have not the same meaning at all. For example
    “and pigs might fly”–> ” quand les poules auront des dents”(which is directly translated as when chicken will have teeths”)
    to boss the show, which means faire la pluie et le beau temps, that is directly translated as make the rain and the good weather
    bottoms up! Which means cul sec! Directly translated as dry ass.
    Or, by rule of thumb which means à vue de nez, directly translated as noze distance.
    Most of the time, because English uses a lot of french expressions, the expressions are nearly the same, but the other major party is also exceptions…

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