French idioms: Every voice counts 'à la Sainte Prudence[1]'

Last Friday at midnight, the official French election campaign stopped. Instantly there were no more hard selling video clips on TV or active Facebook pages of the two candidates, leaving the voters in a final reflective space until Sunday. What were the French thinking and doing during that break?

Bonnet blanc et blanc bonnet

In those last 48 hours opinions and passionate discussions about the next President of France were blooming in cafés, bars and shops, as much as in family reunions and online chats.

Some had a last look at the two programs[2]; others just enjoyed a weekend at home with their mind at peace. Some watched the live semi finale of The Voice show[3], another battle on TV that gathered 9 million French people voting for their favourite artiste en herbe (budding artist) during the last weeks.

The pessimists raised their shoulders (a very French habit) in expectation of the difficult times ahead, seeing no real difference between the two candidates and their promises. As we say in France, bonnet blanc, blanc bonnet[4] (and here is a fun video:)

46 million French called for voting

In order to get all the votes ready for last Sunday night 8PM CET, 1,7 million people living in the French islands called Departements or Territoires d’Outre Mer, a.k.a. ultramarins, as well as the French living in the Americas went to the voting offices overseas on Saturday.

For many of them, although they live away from their home country, their heart is French and they often have an even stronger sense of belonging and responsibility.

As we saw the last polls[5] – 52,5 /47,5 – were very, very close to the final outcome which meant that just over half of the French population were celebrating while the other almost half were having a bitter Sunday dinner. So, champagne or soupe à la grimace[6]?

Luckily the day after most people are able to enjoy a pont[7] and get over all the emotions and hangovers. Clever political planning, isn’t it?

Do you have any other French idioms which could have been fitting at the time or retrospectively?


[1]  There is a French saying claiming « A la Sainte Prudence, s’il fait du vent, les moutons dansent ! »… It’s a funny coincidence that the date of the ultimate voting is Sainte Prudence day? Are voters sheep dancing as the wind blows?
[2] NS Program (PDF) – FH Program (PDF)
[4]A French idiom that could translate like « the hat is white, white is the hat » meaning there is no difference between two options although the wording is different.
[6]A french idiom that could translate as « A soup that makes your face frown » to express a bitter deception
[7] Tuesday 8th of May is the anniversary of the French Victory over the German invader in 1945. Therefore Monday is a day off in France in 2012.
Image credits:
2. Reuters

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Marianne Kopf

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  1. Judy MacMahon May 7, 2012 at 7:14 PM - Reply

    I love learning more French idioms, however I fear I’ll never master enough of them and also I’ll probably get them all confused.

  2. Fitz May 8, 2012 at 11:29 AM - Reply

    Pour ce qui est des bonnets, je crois qu’en anglais, on traduirait cette expression idiomatique comme: “six of one, half a dozen of the other”.

  3. Fitz May 8, 2012 at 11:50 AM - Reply

    Moi, encore …
    Je viens de jeter un coup d’oeil sur le site, afin de vérifier ce que j’avais écrit dans mon poste précédent ci-dessus.
    Oui, j’ai raison.
    Sur le même site j’ai trouvé des locutions style oxymore, qui pourraient s’appliquer à bon nombre de politicards:
    Par ex. l’hypocrisie: “Il te passe la main dans le dos par devant pour te cracher à la figure par derrière”.
    Aussi, des gaffes faites par des politiques: “les quatre coins de l’Hexagone”; “pour mettre un frein sur l’immobilisme”!

  4. Marianne Kopf May 8, 2012 at 6:57 PM - Reply

    Merci Gérard pour ces compléments ! et votre sens de l’humour ! n’hésitez pas à nous en envoyer d’autres, on adore les idiomes, proverbes et autres oxymores chez MFL.

  5. Marianne Kopf May 8, 2012 at 7:03 PM - Reply

    You are so right Judy! some idioms are impossible to translate and it takes some thorough research sometimes to understand their origin and initial meaning. They are one of the mysteries and one of the beauties of French language, n’est ce pas?!

  6. Fitz May 9, 2012 at 10:42 AM - Reply

    Marianne, merci …
    Je me souviens d’un prof qui accompagnait un groupe d’élèves d’échange à l’école où j’enseignais en 2010 qui raffolait de nous mettre au défi quotidiennement avec une nouvelle locution. Ça lui plaisait de parier qu’on n’arriverait à en trouver l’équivalent en anglais australien. Exemple: “Ça mettra du beurre sur les épinards” – notre meilleure tentative a été quelque chose comme: “That’ll be a nice little bonus for us [financially]” J’espère que je ne me suis pas trompé d’interprétation. En outre, j’ajouterai d’autres expressions idiomatiques/oxymores dans un autre message.

  7. Fitz May 9, 2012 at 12:12 PM - Reply

    De retour! J’ai recherché ‘expressions idiomatiques’ sur Google et j’ai dégoté un clip avec un prof érudit qui a parlé de plusieurs aspects de la langue familière, mais en particulier des erreurs qu’on a commises qui ont été acceptées lans la langue moderne. Exemple: tomber dans les pommes’ pour ‘s’évanouir’. C’est parce que l’expression originale était ‘tomber dans les pâmes’!! = to swoon

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