La nouvelle m’a coupé le souffle.
lah noo-vell mah koo-PAIL soo-fluh. Click below to hear this.*
The news took my breath away.
The news was in my email this morning, and it was about a friend who had died suddenly of a brain tumor. I hadn’t even known she was ill.
If you’ve ever received a shocking piece of news, you recognize the sensation. You feel as if someone had punched you in the stomach. For a moment, you can’t breathe. La nouvelle m’a coupé le souffle: literally, The news cut (off) my breath.
Have you ever noticed your breath? Think of it as a ribbon, a continuous stream, in and out, a dependable rhythm. If you are preparing yourself for a piece of bad news, you draw your breath in, as if supplying your body with sustenance to withstand the blow. But if the news comes without warning, you are likely to breathe out abruptly. The air is forced from your lungs, and you are left for a moment without the very source of life. It’s as brutal as an amputation. And then you breathe again, and begin to deal with the news.
News in English always has an “s” on the end, even though it is treated as a singular: The news is bad tonight. In French, on the other hand, each news item is une nouvelle, and collectively they are les nouvelles, except on radio-TV-RSS links, when they are les informations (or les infos: who doesn’t like a shortcut?). Les infos sont mauvaises ce soir.
*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: