Je donne ma langue au chat.

While we’re talking about cats:

Je donne ma langue au chat.

zhuh dun mah LAn go SHAH.

I don’t know, I give up.

But wait, you say. I see a “chat” in there. Didn’t tell me that’s a cat? Where’s the cat?

Aha! Another case of what-you-see-is-NOT-what-you-get, or WYSINWYG for you techies. If we translate this idiom literally, we get “I give my tongue to the cat.” No one knows why. It’s just what you say in French when you give up trying to guess a riddle.

Interestingly, we have a kind of companion phrase in English: Cat got your tongue? In French, you are admitting that you have nothing to say. In English, someone else is teasing you about not being able to speak.

What cats have to do with not speaking is another matter. For that matter, what do cats (and dogs) have to do with heavy downpours of rain? That’s the fun of idioms. You never know what you’re going to get, but it’s not likely to match up with whatever you are accustomed to saying!

6 responses to “Je donne ma langue au chat.

  1. I hope it says cats are great!!!

  2. If that is not correct, I WANT it to say cats are great!!! And in addition I would give my tongue to a cat…

    :-) :-) :-)

    • Keep an eye on this blog, Ruth…one of these days it WILL say “Cats are great”! (Out of fairness, it may also have to say “Dogs are great” too….)

  3. What a great phrase! I am going to start using that one. :)

  4. Pingback: Elle n’a pas sa langue dans sa poche. | Spk Frnch

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