Voilà qui fait froid dans le dos!

Voilà qui fait froid dans le dos!

vwah-lah kee fay frwah dahl DOH! Click below to hear this.*

That’s enough to make you stop and think!

They’ve just announced that sugar may be able to slow cancer growth, but it still wreaks havoc with your organs. Studies show that chocolate causes speeding tickets, but people who eat chocolate live longer. The existence of a secret organization, Trees United to Topple the Universe (TUTU), has been uncovered, but trees do more to counter global warming than all other efforts combined. (Only the first is a real news story, by the way.)

The point is not whether you believe this news (or any part of it), but that the news is full of contradictions that do nothing but cause quandaries. Whatever it is, it will do more in French than make you stop and think. Literally, It makes you cold in the back. I suppose it’s akin to giving you the shivers or the creeps. The French, in this case, is more visceral, less intellectual, than the English.

It’s interesting to note that this common expression in English gains emotional punch, not from the words themselves, but from a very intellectual poetic device.

Did you notice that the English sentence is in iambic pentameter? That’s the meter that Shakespeare and so many other poets of his and other eras used, and it hits English-speakers at a subconscious level as something worth listening to. Indeed, since the initial weak syllable is missing (that’s called “headless verse”, in case you cared), the line has even more power. It scans like this:
/ x / x / x / x /
That’s enough to make you stop and think!

The French uses no such device, just the suggestion of something scary creeping up behind you. Either way, English or French, though, the expression itself is enough to grab you. It’s the writer’s way of nailing the thought with an exclamation point. You are bound to ask yourself some questions about what you have just read or heard!

*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:

voila_qui_fait_froid_dans_le_dos.mp3

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