casser du sucre sur le dos de quelqu'un

Discussion in 'French-English Vocabulary / Vocabulaire Français-Anglais' started by marcolo, Apr 3, 2008.

  1. marcolo

    marcolo Senior Member

    Bordeaux, France
    France, french
    I am quite surprised that there is no thread about this common idiom. Anyway, I want to translate :

    Je ne veux pas casser du sucre sur le dos du patron, mais parfois il est un peu feignasse !

    My attempt :

    I don't want to bad-mouth behind the back of the boss, but sometimes he is kinda lazy

    "casser du sucre" has this notion of speaking ill of somebody and gossiping about the person. But it is kind of colorful and polite expression. English don't break sugar like french do ?
  2. cropje_jnr

    cropje_jnr Senior Member

    Canberra, Australia
    English - Australia
    No, I don't think we do, but I do think your translation is excellent, marcolo. Someone may come up with an idiomatic expression that matches casser du sucre in meaning, but I can't think of or find any for the moment...

    The only suggestion I will make is: "I don't want to bad-mouth the boss behind his back", which preserves the link between the subject (boss) and the verb (bad-mouth) it's linked to.

    Also, a little note to others - "kinda" is of course not a word, but an approximation of the colloquial pronunciation of "kind of".
  3. jann

    jann co-mod'

    English - USA
    I can't say that we do! :p

    The expression "to bad-mouth someone" is a bit informal and not very pretty. You say that casser du sucre... is "polite," but the TLF lists it as argotique, familier. In English, it would be more polite to say "I don't want to speak ill of the boss behind his back...," but this is essentially dire du mal du patron or médire du patron, and undeniably looses some of the interest of the original.

    We do say "behind someone's back" as something of a set structure; it sounds more natural than "behind the back of someone." :)
  4. marcolo

    marcolo Senior Member

    Bordeaux, France
    France, french
    yeah, all the colorful expressions are "argotiques" for TLF. I agree that it is rather colloquial, but you can say it in a relatively formal context, kind of light expression.
    I think that it is important to distinguish "argot acceptable" (=> relaxed speech), idioms often coming from old slang, but light-hearted and accepted everywhere, "argot familier" (=> slang) which has to be used carefully, and "argot vulgaire" (=> vulgar slang) which is offensive and has to be used very carefully.
  5. Gwan Senior Member

    Indre et Loire, France
    New Zealand, English
    We use the expression 'backstab' for speaking ill of someone behind their back, but it's perhaps too strong for your context - usually if you're 'backstabbing' you're being pretty mean about someone who you're at least nominally on friendly terms with.
  6. harrythelm Senior Member

    USA English
    Je dirais que "badmouth behind his back" frôle la redondance, en ceci que "to badmouth" se fait forcément dans le dos de quelqu'un. Je mettrais aussi "mean" à la place de "want" ou simplement "Not to"
    I don't mean to badmouth the boss, but…
    Not to badmouth the boss, but…
  7. pulsar29

    pulsar29 Senior Member

    This page about French idioms translates "casser du sucre sur le dos de qqun" into " to talk about s.o. behind his back", which is definitely less colorful than the original...

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