Je me sens de trop, là.
zhuhm sah duh TRO, lah. Click below to hear this.
I feel like a fifth wheel here.
You’re used to this by now, if you’ve been reading the
Spk Frnch blog for any length of time. That’s right… There are no wheels and no numbers in the French sentence, so how did we get from here to there?
The French expression de trop means in excess. If you reverse it to trop de, you get too much or too many. The same expression has both meanings. Trop de roues means too many wheels.
I’ve heard many Americans lately saying I feel like a third wheel. But let’s think about that for a moment. If you add another wheel to a bicycle, you turn it into a tricycle. It’s still a viable vehicle. But adding another wheel to an automobile could cause problems. Which pair of wheels would it be linked to? Which way would it turn? Where would you mount it? I’m no engineer, but it seems to me that this fifth wheel would cause major mechanical problems. It would just be in the way.
Which brings us back to our expression of the day. Let’s admit that I feel like a fifth wheel is the correct English expression. The French translates more directly as I feel in excess here–like the extra person. And that explains the third wheel error: the person saying this is usually a third person in the company of a romantic twosome.
Oh, and là? Yes, it means there. But it is frequently used to mean here. Go figure.
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