Il ne faut pas mettre le doigt entre l’arbre et l’écorce.

Il ne faut pas mettre le doigt entre l’arbre et l’écorce.

eel nuh foh pah may-truhl dwah ah-truh laar-bray lay-KORSS. Click below to hear this. 

Mind your own business.

I ran across this entertaining proverb while reading something completely unrelated, and knew right away that I had to write about it. Literally, it translates this way: You must not put your finger between the tree and the bark.

Never mind that some trees have bark that flakes off easily with the flick of a finger. That’s not the point. Most trees have bark that fits so snugly, you couldn’t chip it off without an axe or a saw. And what if you do strip the bark? You kill the tree, and then it may fall on you–not right away, but sometime later when you are least expecting it.

That’s what can happen when you meddle in someone else’s family affairs. The damage done can come back and destroy you. You will alienate one side or the other, or bring worse problems upon the family, or coalesce them into a united front–against you. That’s how this tree metaphor comes to mean Mind your own business, otherwise known as MYOB.

Curiously, this same expression–entre l’arbe et l’écorce–has a second meaning in French. In a sentence like J’étais prise entre l’arbre et l’écorce, it means I was caught between a rock and a hard place. It still sounds like a mighty uncomfortable place to be, however you get there.

Alternative audio file link: mettre-le-doigt-entre-larbre-et-lecorce


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