J’espère qu’on pourra remettre ça.

J’espère qu’on pourra remettre ça.

zhess-PAIR kaw poo-rah ruh-METT-truh sah.  Click below to hear this pronounced!  

Can I take a rain check on that?

In Robert Ludlum’s novel The Paris Option, a French woman asks an American to explain the origin of the expression take a rain check. Of course she didn’t understand it. It comes from that most American of entertainments, baseball!

As far back as the late 19th century, patrons were offered a voucher, or check, for a rained-out game. (That’s right, you can play soccer in any weather except lightning, but baseball gets cancelled if it rains. Who can understand these deep mysteries?) With time, the meaning of the term came to be extended to any cancelled performance, including theater (where rain doesn’t matter unless the event is outdoors), a lecture (the speaker has laryngitis), or some other sport. And before you knew it, people were using the phrase to turn down a casual invitation, such as dinner or the movies. Can I take a rain check on that?

But without the baseball connection, the French language needs a different way to express the concept. One way is J’espère qu’on pourra remettre ça: I hope we will be able to reschedule that. Remettre is to postpone, to put off, to reschedule. So you are not turning down the invitation, merely indicating that the timing won’t work. Maybe you have a conflicting event. Maybe you just wanted to sit at home and nurse a headache. It doesn’t matter.

A more formal way to express the same sentiment is: J’espère que cela ne sera que partie remise. (zhess-pair kuh slahn srah kuh paar-tee ruh-MEEZ.) I hope it will just be a postponed event. Remise belongs to the verb remettre; it’s the past participle, in its feminine form, being used as an adjective. Ne…que is just or only.

And une partie is not necessarily a party, though it can be. Une partie de pêche is a fishing party. Une partie de campagne is an outing in the country. There are all sorts of other parties, but… on pourra remettre ça.

Or you can just say: Une autre fois, peut-être? (ew noh-truh FWAH, puh-TET-truh?) Another time, perhaps?

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