Elle en a les jambes coupées.
ay lah nah lay zhahb koo-PAY. Click below to hear this.*
She feels as if someone had punched her in the stomach.
Here is a complicated phrase! It’s from L’Indivision, the novel by Madeleine Chapsal that we have discussed several times recently. (For other posts, type “L’Indivision” in the Search box.)
Literally, this sentence means She has her legs cut off from it. It makes for some strange English, doesn’t it? Time to dissect.
Let’s get the en out of the way first. It replaces de + a noun. In this context, it is probably à cause de, because of. One of the characters has just heard some shocking news about a legal maneuver her brother has taken regarding the inheritance. Her knees buckle under her because of it, and she sits down hard on the nearest sofa.
Of course, her legs are not literally cut off. It just feels as if they are gone. It’s the same feeling that we describe in English as being punched in the stomach, having the wind knocked out of us, having her knees give way. You double over in sudden weakness.
Just don’t confuse this expression with She hasn’t got a leg to stand on. That’s a story for another day.
*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: