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Friday, August 21, 2009


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Sarah Barette

If I remember rightly, from my early days in France running a bar restaurant, a 'canard' can be a lump of sugar which you dip into your coffee, or calvados, and then pop into your mouth - which makes you go 'mmmmmmm'. Correct me if I'm wrong! Sarah


Froid de canard - Damp, cold weather. This may relate to the type of weather during duck hunting season, but I am not sure.

Cynthia in the French Alps

Wouldn't you know the French would have so many uses for canard (kinda like the Eskimos having hundreds of words for snow). I can see I have a lot to learn when it comes to French. But I loved this story. And Im not sure I could have kept my mouth shut regarding the unkind remark about American customer service, because in my experience living in France, we have that down to a science compared to the French.

Christine Dashper

Of the many things I learn when I read this lovely post Kristin,is that I should never take the French language literally! So many uses for the word 'canard'!

Have a great day.

Mar Hampla

"Vendre un canard à moitié" - to half-sell a duck


"La Danse Des Canards:)"

Bill Schubart

Je croyais qu'un canard avait le meme sens en francais qu'en anglais. Cest a dire une histoire fausse.

Nick Q.

"ne pas casser trois pattes à un canard"
That is, to be nothing special.


My husband was in a play in HS back in the 60's and his name was Mort Canard - Dead Duck! Yet another use of the word canard.

Fred Caswell

Robert, you might want to read my question to you at or near the bottom of Wednesday's Comments Box.

I am an 82 year old with a philosophical mind. Yes. I have 4 adult children, 8 grands, and 2 great-grands. After our 4th child going on 49 years ago, my deep concerns about human over population caused me to have surgery that made sure I could not father any more kids. Would you care to share your response to the growth of human earthlings?


I have heard people say tongue in cheek "a vicious canard" meaning a lie. It was always said in a joking fashion. When I saw that was the word of the day, I was sure I was going to see canard used in that way!

Pat Cargill

Le canard de Groucho...anyone remember his show way back when--the 50's/60's-- "You Bet Your Life" (je pense) - and the duck came down with the magic word du jour? Ah, Groucho, the master--great, good laughs. The original "bad boy" of comedy.

"Pouquoi un canard?"...another useful expression for numerous situations, difuses or softens le moment or takes the nonsenscial and caps it off with more of same--unless I am mistakenly co-opting it for my own use?


Fifty year ago in my Wasp family a canard was a children's treat, a lump of sugar dipped in an after dinner demitasse. We were told that the grownup version was sugar diped in rum.

Sheila Bosworth Lemann

Is there any other language in which the article that precedes a noun changes the meaning of the noun? As in, "faire UN canard"= to hit a false note; "faire LE canard"= to keep quiet. And verb tense can change the meaning of the verb, as in "Elle ne voulait pas me dire" (imparfait of vouloir) meaning "She did not want to tell me" vs "Elle ne vu pas me dire" (passe compose) meaning "She refused to tell me." Also, "originAL" means original, unless you're referring to original sin, in which case the spelling in French changes to "originEL". French is not simply challenging, it can be daunting. Neanmoins, je l'aime bien.


And then, of course, there is that "old canard" that "the moon is made of green cheese"!

Merrie Dail

Catching up on postings. In August, every year cicadas here seem to lament, 'too soon, too soon' as summer begins to languish and fall is just as surely around the corner. Yet while struggling to dress for fall, your puppies were born, I took my grandson for his first boy haircut and our lab Maisie has been busy mothering the tiniest of chatons. 'Too old' for little boy's bug box and feeding kitten with an eyedropper; then again, juxtposed against my husband's halting Parkinsons, the reigning chaos of new life seems worthy of celebration - the rest is details.

Fred Caswell - do you hail from New England?

Michael Armstrong

What a timely article! I was talking to a mom today whose daughter's elementary teacher said she was afraid that her daughter had "selective mutism." Our perception was that if this is a syndrome then it is one that many of us could benefit from!


I'm glad othter posters alluded to this b/c I wasn't sure if this was an old fashioned/out moded term. My mother, who came of age during WWII when times were tough, would talk about "boire un canard" which ment placing a lump of sugar in some wine or eau de vie as a desesrt or to warm up "quand il faisait un froid de canard quand le Mistral souflait" Sante/Cheers!


I understand the topic of today's post, but I DO take issue with M. Frites "trained in America" remark.

It's always difficult to appreciate the hand that feeds one. as in coming to the aid of France in 2 WW's. Hence the need to make America the butt of one's annoyance (as M Frites did above).

I love France and the language but sometimes the French themselves leave a lot to be desired. M. Frites showed poor manners at the very least and an incredible amount of pomposity by his pejorative remark.

Kristin, I understand that you felt the need to "faire le canard," but I don't. Hopefully, you won't encounter too many more rude Frenchmen.

Now that I've said what I felt I needed to, je vais faire le canard moi-meme.


Hi Kristin!
Ce mot “canard” a déjà “fait couler de l'encre”... et je prends la relève.

---> "Ça ne casse pas trois pattes à un canard"
Bearing in mind ducks with 3 legs don't exist, if something did break the 3 legs of a duck, it would be totally exceptional, unheard of, quite miraculous.... so, the expression, being in the negative, means:
Il n'y a rien de remarquable, rien d'extraordinaire, rien d'exceptionnel/ C'est tout à fait banal / C'est très moyen”.
Synonym → Ça (ne) casse pas des briques!
---> In English: There is nothing to write home about.

---> “Ça glisse comme sur les plumes d'un canard.”
= ça ne laisse aucune trace / ça me laisse indifférent.
---> In English: It's like water off a duck's back

---> “Il ne faut pas prendre les enfants du bon dieu pour des canards sauvages.”
= Il ne faut pas prendre les gens pour des imbéciles.
Why would a 'wild duck' be considered as stupid? I do not know!
---> In English: You should give people credit for some intelligence.

---> marcher en canard / comme un canard
= marcher avec la pointe des pieds vers l'extérieur
= marcher “à la Charlot” (like Charlie Chaplin)
If you walk like a duck, you end up waddling ---> to waddle = se dandiner

---> “un canard”
= une fausse nouvelle, un bobard, un canular....
---> In English: a hoax, a fib

---> In the duck family:
the father is → le canard
the mother is → la cane
the daughter is → la canette
the son is → le caneton / le canardeau

(to add to a previous list grouping animal sounds)
Verbs expressing the sound made by ducks: cancaner, caqueter, nasiller
---> In English: to quack
In French, the onomatopy representing the sound is “coin-coin”. Do the French really hear something “nasal” (oin oin)? Possible, so, no surprise one of the 3 verbs expressing the sound made by ducks is “nasiller”, which means to speak with a nasal voice, to have a nasal quality.
Substantives: le cancan, le caquètement, le nasillement.
Is it far-fetched to see (or rather to hear!) a connection with the 'French cancan' type of music???
Interesting to know that “les cancans” = gossiping... which makes the link between "un canard" and a newspaper more obvious!
By the way, Kristin, I couldn't imagine the use of "froid" and "vilain" for a newspaper... On the other hand, “froid” (cold) is part of the expression “un froid de canard” (when it's freezing cold and the ducks can no longer dive in the water as it is frozen -
and “vilain” (ugly) came immediately to my mind as part of the title of one of Andersen's tales (Le vilain petit canard / The ugly duckling)

If anyone feels like reading Andersen's “The ugly duckling”, in French, here it is, online:

Bon dimanche!


About the link I gave above:
I haven't listened to the tale online yet. I hope the voice is pleasant! At least, you've got the text at your disposal.


Hello again!

---> “Faire un canard”, in music = faire une fausse note, un son discordant, = faire “un couac”! You most probably do “plein de couacs” if you can't sing in tune or can't play an instrument very well!
---> In English, this type of “canard” / “couac” is quite simply 'a wrong note'... with no duck involved! I can't think of an English equivalent to “faire un canard” or “faire un couac”, (a bum note? a sick note? … adjective + note... mmm... not sure and not so colourful). I looked in my dictionary and found “a jarring note” - again, adj + note. Oh well!

---> I may not enjoy “un canard” in music, but I certainly love “un canard” when it means a lump of sugar dipped in strong black coffee. I also love to slowly crunch “un petit canard à la menthe” = a lump of sugar with a couple of drops of peppermint oil mixed with alcohol. I haven't had any for a long time so, next time I go to France, I'd like to buy “un petit flacon d'alcool de menthe Ricqlès” . Un “canard à la menthe” is excellent for digestion, travel sickness, for “remontant” → 'pick-me-up' … It is tonic, refreshing and very enjoyable!

---> “Faire LE canard” . Yes..... = se taire, ne pas protester! It's as if you mentally bend your head, dive into the water and disappear, instead of arguing, quarelling and irritating everyone. By the way Kristin, you felt it was odd that Mr Fry threw his remark to 'you'. After all, didn't he notice your accent and knew you were “Américaine”?
Yes, he might have noticed your accent which made him realise you were not French, but I doubt his ears were sufficiently trained to make him able to recognize the difference between a Canadian, an American, a British or an Australian accent! So, without wanting to soften what you thought was a rude remark, I believe that what he said was not directed to you, “l'Américaine”! I hope all the American readers won't take Mr Fry's unfair remark too much at heart! Here too, in England, the customer is (in principle) always right, but there are always irregularities and unfairnesss, and like in French Grammar, we have to deal with “exceptions qui confirment la règle”.

Hope les petits chiots and Mum Braise are doing well.
Wishing to all of the Espinasse family a very enjoyable Sunday!


Sorry... Just realised the link I gave you for "The vilain petit canard" (Andersen) is ONLY a text (it's in French and you can print it if you want)...
- Bon! après tout, c'est mieux que rien!
- Oh well, after all, it's better than nothing!

Lydia Zuidema

I am looking for a story about "football americain" for my French III students. Does anyone have a suggestion? I need it by 28 August. Thank you.


Hi Lydia,

We cannot / shouldn't do your proper work but, saying that, here are a few points that might help you.

Wikipedia in French and in English may give you a few references and technical words related to the game.
If the STORY must be in French (or partly in French... or lead to some new vocab in French, you will find some good help here:
Worthwhile exploring this very good website provided - in French - by "La Fédération Française de Football Américain".

As for the story, you could simply invent a situation where a French student is watching a match / or participating to a match for the first time...
Amazement, confusion... misadventures... fun!

Encore quelques jours, donc pas de panique!
Bon travail!
et bonne présentation!


I think everyone has experience dealing with someone who if not a short order cook, is short on manners and short on temper. lol... You guys make me laugh. "do the duck" will now be used going forward.

By the way, five years ago it cost me 6 euros for a small glass of coke in Paris (on Champs Elysees) When I asked for ice, they looked at me crazy. They finally brought me 3 cubes. (still laughing about that too) (I thought about how we take for granted the large sizes we serve back home at every fast food location, 24oz., 32oz., 48oz., and 64oz. packed with ice and any flavor under the sun.) (and many have "happy hours" specials for their 32oz. for .99 cents.) It is pretty crazy... I hope these giant sizes of drinks never carries over to europe. Please stay at 16oz.

A bientot.

Lydia Zuidema

Thanks for the great ideas. Lydia


So pleased to hear that the few ideas are helping you. I guess you are now right in the middle of your preparation.
Enjoy the research, the story... and have a great time with your French III students!

Mary Gilbert

On our first trip to Paris, I encouraged my husband to participate in the carnet purchase in the Metro. He practiced for a minute and promptly walked up to the window and said "Un canard, s'il vous plait." I about split with laughter but the cashier just looked's one of our favorite memories.

Hans Gruber

The comment form MR. Fries was not a quip against Americans but that he "wondered if the employees were being trained "far away" (America)and it took them this long to get trained and travel back..not logical but an angry quasi-analogy. Also note that is part of French culture (and other euro countries) that just because one is paying (as a customer) it does not invalidate social rules of politeness dealing with other citizens- as opposed to America in which "the customer is always right" and often the customer is rude and belligerent at the expense of employees and the latter must put up with this humiliation or be reprimanded by employer.

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