Ça laisse à désirer.
sah lay sah day-zee-RAY. Click below to hear this.*
It leaves something to be desired.
It might have been last night’s movie, or the much-touted bestselling novel, or some candidate’s plan to end the federal deficit. Whatever it was, you were underwhelmed. Disappointed. Hungry for more, or better, or just different.
Interesting crossover of translations here. Laisser can mean to let, to allow, to permit, but also to leave. Not a person leaving a place, which is another word altogether, but rather a person leaving another person (a kind of abandonment), or maybe a movie leaving an impression (a kind of endowment).
While the English says the movie/book/play/explanation/whatever leaves something to be desired (that is, it leaves you desiring something), the French doesn’t even try to name what is missing, what is desired. Ça laisse à désirer, It leaves [you] wanting. We are left in a vague, nameless state of desire, where we may not even be able to put a finger on what we are missing. The ultimate human condition, perhaps.
*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: