J’ai maille à partir avec lui.

J’ai maille à partir avec lui.

zhay MY yah paar-TEE raa-veck lwee. Click below to hear this pronounced!  

I have a bone to pick with him.

Or, in the words of the Obsessively Literal Translator Who Loves to Dissect French, I have a stitch to divide with him.

The image of two dogs fighting over a bone and picking it clean easily arises à propos of the English expression, but it’s hard to conjure up a picture of the French. Perhaps a stitch is such a tiny thing, and impossible to divide without causing the whole piece to unravel and fall apart.

Or it might have to do with a coat of chain mail (une cotte de mail, ewn cut duh MYyuh): maybe I am spoiling for a fight and can’t wait to slice open the chain links (the stitches) on his armor. On second thought, I’m really not that bloodthirsty!

In any case, the expression is a very old one. The verb partir, used in this sense of divide or share, dates back to the year 980 at least. It comes from a “popular” or (“kitchen”) Latin word partire meaning the same thing. It’s related to words like partager (to share) and une part (a portion) in modern French.

Nowadays, partir means to leave. How did that happen? Maybe because when I leave I am dividing myself from this place? Nah. Farfetched, pure speculation, fantasy.

P.-S. For help with the pronunciation, check back to this post on Spk Frnch, or use the Searchbox on the righthand side of the screen to look for “yuck rule”.

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