Un train peut en cacher un autre.

Un train peut en cacher un autre.

uh traa puh ah kaa-shay uh NOH-truh. Click below to hear this.*

One train may be hiding another.

Or, as posted more simply at many American railroad crossings: Two tracks. While that is certainly a lot less wordy than the typical French handling of this situation, it risks leaving the driver to ponder the implications of the statement. Do they also have monorails here? Is the infamous “third rail” missing?

The French wording leaves no doubt in one’s mind. And in case you need to have it further clarified, there is the usual illustration:

These guys mean business. They are right to strike fear into the very heart of the bystander. Trains are big. Here’s another illustration. Too bad they can’t post this at every railroad crossing:**

We might lose fewer pedestrians and motorists that way.

The expression can go beyond train tracks. It can also mean that a situation is more complicated that it seems at face value, that appearances are deceiving, that there’s more to this than meets the eye. If you raise a cautionary finger and toss this into a philosophical discussion, you will sound very worldly-wise, very clever with words, and very French. Just be sure you can explain what’s behind your observation, or you will sound as dumb as the guy who crosses the tracks without looking.

*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file:


**This particular YouTube does not seem to work on my BlackBerry. If yours is balking too, try pasting this link into your mobile browser: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXVAFw1SqKU

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