can’t tell a play from a pile of kindling

Discussion in 'French-English Vocabulary / Vocabulaire Français-Anglais' started by Koyote, Aug 15, 2013.

  1. Koyote

    Koyote Senior Member

    Gers, France
    Français (France)
    Bonjour,

    Dans le passage suivant, une actrice (de théâtre) séduit un jeune garçon :

    “You know what I don’t like, Jovanno?” She moved her hands and teased the thin line of hair that ran down his stomach. “Stupid men, weak men, illiterate men. Men who can’t tell a play from a pile of kindling.”


    Je voudrais savoir le sens du passage souligné.
    "Play" fait-il référence à une pièce de théâtre, à un jeu (de séduction) ou à un mélange des deux ?
    Quel est le sens de "kindling" dans ce contexte ?

    Merci de votre aide

    K.
     
  2. snarkhunter

    snarkhunter Senior Member

    France, Région parisienne
    French - France
    Bonjour,

    A priori, "play" correspond bien ici à une pièce de théâtre.
    Et si j'osais faire le jeu de mots, je parlerais de ces hommes rustres qui sont incapables de distinguer les planches du petit bois !


    (... j'ai osé !)
     
  3. LART01

    LART01 Senior Member

    The Hague,Netherlands
    French-France
    Hello
    Je pense que play fait référence à un jeu et dans ce cas un jeu comme le Mikado
    qui est aussi un empilement de bouts de bois

    des hommes qui confondent le Mikado avec du petit bois pour le feu
     
  4. snarkhunter

    snarkhunter Senior Member

    France, Région parisienne
    French - France
    ... Mais, si c'était vraiment le cas, ne parlerait-on pas plutôt de "game" que de "play" ?!

    Par ailleurs, n'oublions pas la présence du mot "illiterate", qui se réfère bien à quelque chose de culturel. Or, je doute qu'une partie de "Mikado" puisse être considérée comme une expression de grande culture !
     
  5. LART01

    LART01 Senior Member

    The Hague,Netherlands
    French-France
    D'accord pour game.
    Et le jeu de mots avec planches est excellent mais je ne saisis toujours pas l'expression originale. Il y a forcément quelque chose d'autre ou bien c'est une phrase idiote...
     
  6. snarkhunter

    snarkhunter Senior Member

    France, Région parisienne
    French - France
    ... En définitive, pas si sûr pour "game" qui serait supérieur à "play" : ce dernier correspond également au substantif "jeu" (... comme dans "child's play", par exemple).

    Par contre, c'est vrai que la subtilité de la comparaison me reste assez obscure. Sauf si le but était seulement d'insister sur le fait qu'un personnage rustre serait incapable de faire la différence entre un objet usuel et un objet culturel, la métaphore du petit bois suggérant alors une origine campagnarde plutôt que citadine, ce qui renforcerait ainsi le contraste.

    Mais ce n'est là qu'une simple interprétation de ma part.
     
  7. Koyote

    Koyote Senior Member

    Gers, France
    Français (France)
    Merci pour votre aide. Je pense que je vais garder la proposition de Snarkhunter, mais je vais réfléchir à la théorie de LART01.
     
  8. nodnol Senior Member

    English UK
    I had a friend whose mum had a fireplace, I saw him using balls of newspaper as kindling. So maybe some folk would burn a play script?

    Is their any supporting information from the context; is it a time and place where people heated their homes with fires? Is there a play being produced? --because otherwise, it would really puzzle me if I saw a phrase like that.
     
  9. Omelette

    Omelette Senior Member

    London
    UK English
    Someone has written a play and it's been thrown on the fire, as nodnol suggests? I suppose that's possible. Otherwise it seems very random
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2013
  10. mirifica Senior Member

    Les Lilas
    French
    Bonjour à tous,

    La phrase est déconcertante. Je pensais en rapport avec "play" au papier comme il a été suggéré plus haut.

    Un proposition qui peut être une piste (?) :

    qui confond une pièce de théatre avec du papier bon pour le feu.
     
  11. bing181 Senior Member

    France
    English (Australian)
    Snarkhunter's post 2 covers it.
     
  12. Omelette

    Omelette Senior Member

    London
    UK English
    Possibly and possibly not. :)
     
  13. bing181 Senior Member

    France
    English (Australian)
    Well, it's an actress talking, so "play" would be a theatre piece.

    A pile of kindling is a pile of kindling, the juxtaposition of that with a play is supposed to be unexpected and foreign, it tells us that our actress has a fertile imagination. As does the author!

    Curious as to what happens next. Perhaps this could be continued ...
     
  14. guillaumedemanzac Senior Member

    English - Southern England Home Counties
    To me it's just a metaphor. She is criticising these "men" as being people who can't tell (the difference between) a play from (and) a pile of kindling (wood).
    Don't overcomplicate it; it's a very clear and obvious comparison (if a little whacky).
     
  15. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    English is fertile with these apparently nonsensical similes. Compare the line in Casablanca "the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world". A more usual one in the context of the OP is "can't tell A from a bull's foot" or more vulgarly "can't tell their arse from their elbow".

    Why? Va chercher... The fact is that posts #13 and 14 have got it right. "Des hommes qui ne savent pas distinguer entre une pièce de théâtre et un tas de bois de chauffage".
     
  16. nodnol Senior Member

    English UK
    I'll agree with Keith and others. I'm not familiar with this sort of colorful expression, but given the passionate context, it is hard to imagine that the speaker was trying to say anything very specific, as suggested in posts #3 or #8. -- If she wanted to say one of these things, she could easily have said them more clearly.

    (I like the suggestion from post #2, or maybe ...une pièce du petit bois. They are quite snappy. But equally there is something comic about using a much longer phrase, like in post #15.)
     
  17. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    It's also occurred to me that in translating this kind of expression, you musn't try to make the two halves relate to each other. The whole point is that these "illiterate men" can't distinguish between two things that are totally different. Except, possibly, by assonance: une pièce de théâtre et une pomme de terre, perhaps?
     
  18. Kelly B

    Kelly B Senior Member

    USA English
    I'm not convinced about that - I think Nodnol's suggestion is possible, that she might've meant he'd use a script as fuel.
     
  19. nodnol Senior Member

    English UK
    When I wrote #8, as I read Stupid men, weak men, illiterate men, I didn't pay much attention to the first two adjectives, and more or less re-interpreted illliterate to mean 'not very cultured'. Also, a reference in the back of my mind was Tennessee Williams, so I imagined the speaker was maybe dissapointed and bitter with these men, their lack of appreciation for theater perhaps making her life as an actress financially difficult. --And I have a personal prejudice against any assertion that a phrase is just illogical.

    Since then, I've thought that this is more Literotica than Williams, so probably no plot to give her a particular reason to be angry and bitter at these men, and in the context of contrasting this man against others who are weak, stupid, don't even know how to read, who are not 'real men' etc etc, it could well be a 'random' phrase to mean 'don't know anything'. -- And logically, a plie of scrap paper destined to be used as kindling, would you call it a pile of kindling or a pile of paper? I think a pile of paper.

    And then, although they don't always share their reasoning, quite a few posts express a strong conviction that it is a 'random' phrase with not much literal meaning. I can only guess, they are familiar with various colourful phrases like this. -- Perhaps I'll be on the lookout for such phrases, when I next come across one I could post it on this or another suitable thread.

    But as I say, this is all my guess work. The only thing I like more than guessing is not having to guess... but then I wouldn't like to live in a world where everyone had the same approaches as me. (EDIT and it is a privilege for me to take part in these forums, and since I often have to laugh at myself for being bossy or ridiculous in some way, you are always more than welcome to do the same.)
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2013
  20. snarkhunter

    snarkhunter Senior Member

    France, Région parisienne
    French - France
    If I may... I feel it would not be as 'smart' with 'pièce': My own suggestion was a deliberate wordplay on "planches", which means both 'planks' and '(the) stage' in French!
     
  21. bing181 Senior Member

    France
    English (Australian)
    Also if I may, surely kindling = allumage?
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2013
  22. Kelly B

    Kelly B Senior Member

    USA English
    I don't think so - allumage isn't a pile of paper/wood shavings/twigs, but rather the act of starting a fire in that pile.
     
  23. nodnol Senior Member

    English UK
    There have been no comments yet on :
    I think une pièce de théâtre et une pomme de terre, fits the context very well; it doesn't sound like the speaker put much effort into it, in contrast with the pun in post #2. --Although if I was seeking a translation, and if I had came up with that jeu de mots, I would have probably used it regardless. -- But to be explicit, for me 'pile of kindling' = '(any) prosaic everyday item of little value'.

    ps just saw the assonance in keith's suggestion: p-d-t. So that is what I liked about it.
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2013
  24. guillaumedemanzac Senior Member

    English - Southern England Home Counties
    It is also possible that the lady used a euphemism because in this romantic setting she might seem too vulgar to the young actor she is trying to seduce and it might put him off.
    Maybe she meant to say between a play and a pile of shit - the American phrase is quite common and very vulgar "He don't know shit!" - and she rapidly changed it to say "a pile of ..... kindling." .... kindling being the first word that came into her brain quickly enough to change it. That would explain the random nature of the comparison because it is not a common phrase in English and seems totally contrived and irrelevant.
     
  25. Lly4n4 Senior Member

    Paris (ex-Grand Ouest)
    Français (France)
    En gardant l'idée du jeu de mots lancé par LART01, et avec une allusion sur la séduction :
    ... qui confondent "brûler les planches " avec "attiser un feu"

    Ou bête et méchant : "un livret de théâtre avec une réserve d'allume-feu".
     

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