Je l’ai échappé belle.

Je l’ai échappé belle.

zhlay ay-shah-PAY BELL.  Click below to hear this!  

I escaped by the skin of my teeth.

This is one of those expressions that absolutely can’t be dissected. True, the first three words literally mean I escaped it. But belle? Beautiful? An adjective, in its feminine form yet, tacked onto a verbal phrase? Adjectives don’t describe verbs. Doesn’t make logical sense.

But this is how French speakers express the idea behind I escaped by the skin of my teeth. And the English isn’t any too logical, either. Since when do teeth have skin?

And then we have to add another, related, idiom: in English, I caught the train by the skin of my teeth. This situation, accomplishing something rather than avoiding something, calls for a different expression in French: J’ai attrapé le train de justesse (zhay aa-traa-pay luh TRAA duh zhew-STESS).  

De justesse means by a very slim margin. In essence, what you are saying is I just caught the train, but that expression in English can also mean only a moment ago.

And don’t confuse de justesse with la justice, which means justice and a host of related concepts. That’s tomorrow’s topic!

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One response to “Je l’ai échappé belle.

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Je l’ai échappé belle. « Spk Frnch --

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