C’est la goutte d’eau qui a fait déborder le vase.

C’est la goutte d’eau qui a fait déborder le vase.

say lah GOOT DOH key ah fay day-bore-DAY luh VAHZ. Click below to hear the audio file!  

It’s the straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s the last straw.

But wait: Where’s the camel? Where’s the straw?

There are none. It’s the drop of water that made the vase overflow. In our Western culture, we don’t meet up very often with camels, and straw is usually either for piling on the garden in the winter or for drinking milkshakes. This is how culture shapes language!

So this is really a first-grade science experiment. Fill the vase or the glass to the top, and then keep adding drop by drop. We all know what’s going to happen, and some of us feel as if it happens to us every day.

Note the word order. In English, we say made the vase overflow–make + object + infinitive. In French, it’s a fait déborder le vase: make + infinitive + object. A simple swap.

Le bord (luh BORE) means edge, so déborder sends something (such as a liquid) over the edge. Or yourself, in this expression!

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