Il a toujours le nez dans le guidon.

Il a toujours le nez dans le guidon.

ee lah too-ZHOOR luh nay dahl ghee-DAW.  Click below to hear this pronounced!  

He’s always buried in his work.

But wait! If you know your body parts in French, you’ve probably already decided that I’m lying to you (again). There is no nose in the English! And where’s the word for work?

So here’s the scoop: As of the date of this post, we’re in the middle of le Tour de France, right? And this is one of the most important and most followed sports events in the country. It’s natural that there should be a few idioms in the language that derive from it.

Le guidon is the handlebars (of your bicycle, of course!). If you want to ride fast, you have to reduce wind resistance to the maximum. So you hunch over le guidon until your nez almost touches it. You are focused, you see the road ahead of you, you know where your competitors are…you are in the moment! You don’t even notice the crowd, the cheers, the flags waving, that fluffy little white cloud that looks like a bunny, nor the poppies blooming by the roadside. You are going to win!

Well, maybe in a less-dramatic world, you are focused on your spreadsheet. The totals are going to balance, the formulas are going to work. You are willing it to happen. You don’t even notice the aroma of your colleague’s Starbucks in the next cube. Vous avez le nez dans le guidon.

It’s a little like saying He has his nose to the grindstone in English, but there’s a difference. The grindstone expression implies just slogging through, working incessantly until the job is done. Our French expression implies not so much the amount of work, but the intense focus, the active involvement. It’s a nice distinction.

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