frais de bêtise

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

  1. Dasein New Member

    Seattle
    English - U.S.
    I've encountered this expression in Balzac. It's a description of Goriot. Here is the full sentence:

    Le bon vermicellier de soixante-deux ans qui ne paraissait pas en avoir quarante, le bourgeois gros et gras, frais de bêtise, dont la tenue égrillarde réjouissait les passants, qui avait quelque chose de jeune dans le sourire, semblait être un septuagénaire hébété, vacillant, blafard.

    Judging from context, "
    frais de bêtise " has some positive idiomatic meaning that I can't quite grasp. Any ideas?

    Thanks et merci in advance!
     
  2. Michelvar

    Michelvar quasimodo

    Marseille - France
    French-France
    Hi, and welcome!

    "frais" = d'une grande candeur, d'une grande pureté morale. = ingenuous, of great morale rectitude / virtue.
    "frais de bêtise" = of great morale virtue, not from wisdom, but from stupidity.
     
  3. Itisi

    Itisi Senior Member

    Paris/Hastings UK
    English UK/French
    Welcome to the forum, Dasein!

    No, it's not idiomatic, it's Balzac being creative! He is saying that the man's stupidity keeps him looking young.

    Ah, I see Michelvar has posted at the same time and has a different interpretation... He may be right... But in defense of mine is the next sentence: something has happened to perturb the man and now he is looking older than his age instead of younger...
     
  4. Dasein New Member

    Seattle
    English - U.S.
    Merci à vous deux. It makes sense that Goriot has a kind of naïve (or dumb) moral purity. One translation I've seen renders the French as "an almost bucolic air," which is taking some liberty, but conveys a sense of innocence and goodness.

    Thanks again for helping me on my first post!
     
  5. Itisi

    Itisi Senior Member

    Paris/Hastings UK
    English UK/French
    Bien vu, Michelvar!
     
  6. Michelvar

    Michelvar quasimodo

    Marseille - France
    French-France
    As no one can ask the author, and as both meanings make sense in the context of the book, we can not be sure. I myself, I find Itisi's interpretation very interesting, as it fits well in the paragraph, which is about Goriot's look evolution.
    Anyway, we will never know.
     
  7. catay Senior Member

    Canada anglais
    Perhaps a synonymous expression for "frais de bêtise" in this context:
    "still wet behind the ears" , inexperienced, naive, innocent
     
  8. Itisi

    Itisi Senior Member

    Paris/Hastings UK
    English UK/French
    Well, I don't know, catay - it is stated that the man is 62years old...
     
  9. catay Senior Member

    Canada anglais
    Or "in many ways still wet behind the ears" - to be taken figuratively, of course. However, if this doesn't work for you, chances are it wouldn't work for other readers either.:p
    (I have read the book .;))
     

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