Word of the Week: ‘quand le chat n’est pas là, les souris dansent’

Salut tout le monde! 🙂

Comment ça va ?

I’m so sorry this post has been such a long time coming! I’ve really missed updating the blog, so my (very late) New Year’s Resolutions for the blog for 2018 is to post much more often than I have been 🙂

For the first post of 2018 (can’t believe this is the first post and it’s almost April!), I bring you a brand-new Word of the Week!

This is a lovely expression in French, and I actually prefer it to the English translation (I know, I’m a traitor to the English language!)

Word of the Week:

Quand le chat n’est pas là, les souris dansent.

How to pronounce it:

Caahn luh shaah nay pah lah, lay soo-ree daarns.

What it means in English:

Literally meaning ‘when the cat’s not there, the mice dance’, we would translate this into English as ‘when the cat’s away, the mice will play’.

Where does it come from?

According to Wiktionary, the expression has been around for quite a while.

It comes from the French proverb ‘ou chat n’a, souriz i revelent’. This was used from around the thirteenth century until the sixteenth century, and literally means ‘where cat has not, mice there show’.

Or, for a more natural translation that doesn’t sound like something Yoda might say, we could say something like: ‘when the cat’s away, the mice show themselves (or come out)’.

The closest version to the saying used today appeared in 1782, in the book L’ami des enfans, with the wording ‘quand le chat est hors de la maison, les souris dansent sous la table’ (‘when the cat is out of the house, the mice dance under the table.’)

The French author Honoré de Balzac then used a variation of the expression in his 1833 novel Eugénie Grandet, writing ‘quand le chat court sur les toits, les souris dansent sur les planchers’ (‘when the cat runs across the rooftops, the mice dance on the floorboards.’)

Similar words:

Le chat parti, les souris dansent = When the cat’s away, the mice dance.

Quand le chat dort, les souris dansent = When the cat’s asleep, the mice dance.

How about you? What are your favourite French sayings? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

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