C’est une autre paire de manches.

C’est une autre paire de manches.

say ew noh-truh pair duh MAHSH. Click below to hear this. 

That’s another kettle of fish.

Or, as English-speakers often say, That’s a whole nother kettle of fish.

Nother? Is that a word? Well, no. The way we say an other is another, which changes the pronunciation of the initial a from /aa/ to /uh/. So if we want to add some emphasis to our kettle of fish, we tuck in the word whole, in the sense of completely. We would say That’s a whole different story, so we construct the idiomatic sentence the same way–and by deconstructing one word, invent a new one: nother. 

Which brings us around to the fish. Where are the fish? Ah. Glad you asked. Ça, c’est une autre paire de manches. Literally? That’s another pair of sleeves. Or, alternatively, That’s another pair of handles. No, I haven’t completely lost it. The word manche exists in both the masculine and the feminine. Un manche is a handle, and une manche is a sleeve.

There is a vague relationship between the two: picture a saucepan as the body of a shirt, and the handle is a sleeve, sticking out sideways. (Don’t ask me what happened to the other sleeve. Maybe the seamstress got tired of sewing.)

Which all makes sense when you consider the etymology of the word. In Latin, manus means hand. Various words were derived in Late Latin from this one source, including manica, a sleeve that covered the hand, and manicus, a handle.

We actually can’t tell which sense of manche is intended in the expression, since the sentence does not reveal the gender of the noun, but most writers seem to assume that we are talking sleeves here. But that is also une autre paire de manches.

Alternate audio file link: cest-une-autre-paire-de-manches

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4 responses to “C’est une autre paire de manches.

  1. In addition to the way you disect phrases, I love your humor (and you!).

  2. Pingback: Il fait toujours la manche au même coin de rue. | Spk Frnch

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