Il se moque totalement d’elles.

Il se moque totalement d’elles.

eel smuck toe-taal-mah DELL. Click below to hear this.*

He rides roughshod over them.

When I hear the English phrase, I can’t help picturing a pack of cowboys galloping wildly through the dusty streets, shooting off their pistols and hooting and hollering. For some reason, they always go from screen left to screen right, and there’s always a scrawny little dog that very nearly buys the farm beneath their hooves.

Well. That’s the wild west, as seen by moviemakers. Riding roughshod actually refers to using studded shoes on the horses, much like putting snow chains on a car’s tires, which would help keep the horse from slipping on ice. When we ride roughshod over someone or something, we discard any concern for their welfare or their interests.

Since the wild west is not a part of French culture (although it does arouse a little “culture envy” on the part of some Europeans), naturally the French expressions for this sort of behavior do not involve horses. But the behavior still exists, and there are plenty of ways to say so. Today’s is one of them.

The French simply says that he “totally mocks them,” that he doesn’t care a bit about them. But be careful–there’s an important nuance in the French that the English doesn’t recognize. Who or what is he riding roughshod over? If it’s the other staff members at his job, we say Il se moque totalement d’elles. (Noting, in passing, that the staff is completely female: d’elles.) If, on the other hand, he is treating the strategies and plans previously drawn up by the department with total disregard, we must say Il s’en moque totalement. The pronoun
en replaces de + a noun, in this case les stratégies. But en works only for things, not people.

*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:


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