Il préfère rester sur ses acquis.
eel pray-fair res-TAY sewr say zaa-KEE. Click below to hear this pronounced!
He prefers to rest on his laurels.
To begin with, rester doesn’t mean to rest, no matter how much it looks that way. That would be se reposer. Rather, it means to remain or to stay. So he’s not just resting, he’s staying in one spot. And that spot has nothing literal to do with laurels, which are really bay leaves, great for cooking and native to the Mediterranean region. Sturdy and aromatic when fresh, crumbly and crisp when dried.
And also great for weaving together into a wreath for the victor or the graduate, which leads us back to our sentence. If you win the laurel wreath, but then you don’t go on to do anything else of note, you are stuck in one spot, not advancing. That’s what resting on one’s laurels really means.
In French, you stay with what you have acquired. Les acquis are the (things) acquired; it’s the past participle of the irregular verb acquérir (why are all the good ones irregular?), but it is being used as a noun. Or, to be even more accurate, it’s a participle being used as an adjective being used as a noun. In case you cared.
So you acquire honors, recognition, prizes, or just knowledge, but then, like the one-book novelist, you just quit. You don’t go anywhere. Sounds dull!