c'est en faisant n'importe quoi qu'on devient n'importe qui

Discussion in 'French-English Vocabulary / Vocabulaire Français-Anglais' started by sandrine26, Oct 5, 2008.

  1. Please could you help me to translate this french expression in English

    "c'est en faisant n'importe quoi qu'on devient n'importe qui"

    The problem is to keep the sens of this sentence and don't translate word by word but translating the sens.

    Do you have a proposition ?

    Thanks for your help. Sandrine
  2. polaire Senior Member

    English, United States
    Hint: Consider using two English words that begin with "any-"
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 28, 2012
  3. So could it be :
    It's making anything (sense garbage) one becomes no matter who.

    But there is a wordplay between "n'importe quoi" and "n'importe qui" and this expression makes no sense in French that's why it's very difficult to translate. Is it possible to say :
    It's making no matter what, one becomes no matter who ??

    It's the catch phrase to remi gaillard and if you would like understand the good sense I mean, you can see one of his videos on nimportequi . com
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 28, 2012
  4. Suehil

    Suehil Medemod

    Tillou, France
    British English
    'It's by doing nothing in particular that you become nobody in particular.'
  5. renardor Senior Member

    France, Français
    This is how I understand the sentence:
    It's by doing stupid things that one becomes a depraved person.
  6. johndot Senior Member

    English - England
    Exactly, Suehil !
  7. Suehil

    Suehil Medemod

    Tillou, France
    British English
    I think it is less extreme than 'stupid' and 'depraved' - more like 'by doing nothing you become nobody'
  8. Argyll Senior Member

    I think your "nothing in particular" in #6 was closer to the truth than plain "nothing", Suehil.
  9. renardor Senior Member

    France, Français
    With "nothing in particular/nobody in particular", you keep the same similarity as with "n'impote quoi/n'importe qui".
    But "faire n'importe quoi" doesn't mean "to do nothing in particular", but instead to do illogical thing, or to do thing in the wrong way, etc...

    and yes, stupid and depraved are extreme ^^
  10. johndot Senior Member

    English - England
    Or ‘by doing nothing, you are a nothing’ ?
  11. renardor Senior Member

    France, Français
    maybe maybe
    By doing nonsensical things, one becomes a wierdo.
  12. polaire Senior Member

    English, United States
    Could be translated as "to do any old thing."
  13. Suehil

    Suehil Medemod

    Tillou, France
    British English
    The 'nothing' and 'nobody' was only to illustrate the point. How about 'it's by doing just anything that you become just anybody.'
  14. Thank you everybody for your answers. I'm very surprised you answer with such speed !!!!!:)
    Suehil your last answer is very well and I think it's at the moment the most appropriate translation in relation to the initial sense.
  15. Nicomon

    Nicomon Senior Member

    Français, Québec ♀
    This one gets my vote. :thumbsup: I agree with Sandrine.
  16. polaire Senior Member

    English, United States
    I just read that "n'importe quoi" has the additional meaning of "nonsense" or "rubbish" or 'whatever" (sarcastically) and that this expression has been used by a French video maker.

    The expression inquired about means "It's by doing nonsensical things that you become nonsensical," and is a play of words on the proverb, "C'est en forgeant qu'on devient forgeron." (Literally, "It's by forging that one becomes a blacksmith," figuratively, "Practice makes perfect.")

    If I had to translate this into English, I might use a play on an English expression, "Pretty is as pretty does," and use:

    "Stupid is as stupid does."
  17. gV Rubino New Member

    By doing something you become someone.
  18. cyberpedant

    cyberpedant Senior Member

    North Adams, MA
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    How about: "Doing silly things makes you a silly person"?
  19. sankara Senior Member

    seems you didn't get it at all.

    it simply means: "It's by doing anything one becomes anyone."

    that's just a wordplay (n'importe qui / n'importe quoi).
  20. Ericklecoz Member

    It's by doing just anything that you become just anyone!

    I think that this is the best way for saying this^^
    cyou guys
  21. Diablo919

    Diablo919 Senior Member

    Dayton, Ohio
    US / English
    it officially means

    "It's by doing whatever that ones becomes whoever..."
    according to the site.
  22. Hahutzy New Member

    Canada - English & Cantonese
    As far as I know, this expression is a parody of the saying:
    C'est en forgeant qu'on devient forgeron
    Which is equivalent to "practice makes perfect".

    This illustrates that the expression is meant to be an encouragement of sorts.

    Hence, I agree with some of the above posters,
    C'est en faisant n'importe quoi qu'on devient n'importe qui
    "It's by doing anything one wants to do that one becomes anyone one wants to become."

    or in a simpler fashion

    "It's by doing anything that one becomes anyone."

    In the end, the meaning boils down to:
    "don't give up before you try your best"

    But of course, since it's a parody, the creator might have meant it the other way, which in turn means it's a pun.
  23. Kat LaQ Senior Member

    NY, NY
    English, USA
    Lots of good ideas so far!

    Another try, going for something with a bit of the wordplay feel to it in EN:
    "Do nothing and you'll end up a nobody."
  24. stephou Senior Member

    I know the website where you found that sentence !
    It's someone making stupid videos doing stuffs you wouldt dare to do, such as interrupting a TV show and run among the candidates, go naked to a football match,...

    Given the context, i think that "doing silly makes us like everyone" is what's meant.

    but of course this translation is really bad.
    maybe polaire's translation's correct but my favorite is suehil's 'it's by doing just anything that you become just anybody.' :)
  25. bonzouk New Member

  26. bobepine

    bobepine Senior Member

    Canada, English & French
    For those who are interested, it is the tagline of one Rémi Gaillard, a one-man French Jackass lite, if you will.

    I'm definitely of the opinion that he means that by doing any silly thing, you get to be another silly someone (underlying notion of celebrity), but look for him on youtube and judge for yourself.
  27. 1guru New Member

    check out the translation i found on wikipedia: "It's by doing whatever that one becomes whoever". sorry if there was anybody else who proposed this translation but i read so many that i can't remember if i already read this one
  28. bh7 Senior Member

    Limestone City
    Canada; English
    Keep doing stupid things and you'll soon be very good at it! (pretty sarcastic)

    However, I think that polaire has already suggested the best concise formulation ("Stupid is as stupid does.").

    (I've just noticed that several posters, like myself, got confused by the length of this thread and duplicated earlier suggestions. Sorry.)
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2009
  29. sankara Senior Member

    absolutely not.
    I'd like to explain you why you're wrong but i'm not fluent enough... i'd even tend to think that you have to be french to understand the nuances of this type of sentence (i can be wrong though).
  30. Migueldeabreu New Member

    Could it be...?

    It's by doing anything that we become anyone, or,
    By doing anything we become anyone.
  31. Fsd0106 New Member

    Hi my native language is french.

    c'est en faisant n'importe quoi qu'on devient n'importe qui

    even though n'importe qui and n'importe quoi are not directly translatable
    this means:

    it is by doing anything, that one becomes anybody.

    the n'importe quoi can also be taken as everything.

    this is Remi Gaillard's "slogan"(?) his catchphrase i dont know how to say. he is a french "daredevil" that goes out and does funny stunts in public and posts them on the internet.

    and that phrase basically means go for it and do anything and u will become anything u wish to be!
    like nike's slogan:

    "just do it!"

    hope this helps
  32. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    français Clodoaldien
    In fact Renardor is right, together with a few others, basically :
    rendering it by
    (or the like), would be a misinterpretation (and a wrong translation).
    Faire n'importe quoi = to fool around, to make a fool of oneself, to do stupid things
    (not faire quelque chose)
    Etre n'importe qui = to be someone of no importance, a nobody
    My try : It's by fooling around that you become a jerk // fooling aroung will have you become a jerk.

    This being said ,
    Something like
    may also work ...
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2010
  33. Fsd0106 New Member

    yes faire n'importe quoi means to fool around but in Remi gaillard's view, he meant it is by doing anything. i live in france and this rings in my head as that not the one u mentioned. it is more of a optimistic point of view . a motivational sentence. i hope u understand what i mean.

    and n'importe qui is not a nobody or of no importance.
    -choisis quelq'un.
    -mais qui?
    -n'importe qui!

    pick someone
    but who?

    believe me this is definately it
  34. bobepine

    bobepine Senior Member

    Canada, English & French
    @ sankara

    Ma langue maternelle est le français. J'aimerais bien lire ton explication en quoi mon interprétation est "absolument" erronée.
  35. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    français Clodoaldien
    J'admets volontiers que la phrase c'est en faisant n'importe quoi qu'on devient n'importe qui peut être interprétée de plusieurs manières et sur deux registres, le registre "positif" (c'est en faisant quelque chose que l'on devient quelqu'un) et le registre ironique (c'est en déconnant qu'on devient un con, pour simplifier).

    Je me targue d'avoir plusieurs langues maternelles (ça arrive), le français étant sans conteste l'une d'elles, mais j'ose penser que l'interprétation ironique (ou sarcastique) est ici la plus plausible, surtout quand on pense au "calque" c'est en forgeant ...

    En ce qui concerne
    bobepine a évidemment parfaitement raison, qui peut aller là contre ...
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2010
  36. bloomiegirl

    bloomiegirl Senior Member

    New York
    US English
    Emboldened by Bobepine and Aoyama, I'll repost: By doing just anything, one becomes just nobody. :(
  37. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    français Clodoaldien
    not bad, not bad at all. It pays to be bold.
    A coeur vaillant, rien d'impossible.
  38. gquixote

    gquixote Senior Member

    South Africa
    Could it be that the statement is highly ambiguous and is deliberately intended by Remi gaillard to be ambiguous? It sounds as though the guy is some sort of public performance artist, in which case his behaviour and his slogan could be designed both:

    to make an encouraging motivational statement and:

    to make a critical, maybe even cynical comment about celebrity and public life.

    BY leaving the whole thing open to intterpretation he succeeds in functioning as a genuine mirror to all of us: We interpret his slogan (and by implication his actions) as a reflection on our own attitudes to self-determination and contemporary life. This, in my view is precisely the job of an artist in society.

    This ambiguity is possibly what makes his work so popular and perhaps so compelling to many people.
  39. Arrius

    Arrius Senior Member

    English, UK
    Jack of all trades and master of none.
  40. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    français Clodoaldien
    a bit different. French call that fumiste or "bon à tout, bon à rien".
    Now, it may be worth noting that this Rémi Gaillard probably gets his inspiration from Pierre Dac ...
  41. piloulac

    piloulac Senior Member

    français France ♂
    "Celui qui, dans la vie, est parti de zéro pour n'arriver à rien, n'a de merci à dire à personne."
    Pierre Dac
    Effectivement, il y a du Pierre DAC (ou du Groucho Marx) dans le slogan et dans l'art de Rémi Gaillard.
    L'idée est de fustiger toute l'idéologie post moderne sur les gagneurs, le mérite etc....
  42. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    français Clodoaldien
    C'est à peu près ça, et on sait qu'il y en a d'autres de la même eau .
  43. gwenboulet Senior Member

    French - France
    My native language being French I would say the closest to the original meaning would be:
    It's by doing absurd things that you become no-one in particular
    By doing absurd things, you become no-one in particular
  44. Arrius

    Arrius Senior Member

    English, UK
    The set phrase little things please little minds has just occurred to me, which one says dispprovingly to someone wasting his time on some trivial pursuit.
  45. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    français Clodoaldien
    Now, one has also to take into account that this Rémi Gaillard has a site called :
    www.nimportequi.com (multilingual, you'll see).
    Together with P.Dac, Piloulac mentioned Groucho Marx. I agree, Groucho, or for that matter the Marx Brothers as a whole, would fit here, in the nonsensical aspect of the caracter.
    Looking at the site (and what this guy does) will help you, no doubt, understand what this phrase means.
  46. franc 91 Senior Member

    English - GB
    Here's my attempt at it -
    If you are continually acting stupidly, you end up by becoming stupid.
    Not doing anything right makes you a nobody.
    By not doing anything the way it should be done, doesn't get you anywhere.
  47. SteveRusso Senior Member

    Français de France
    Le débat tourne autour du message: positif ou sarcastique.
    Je penche très volontiers pour le sarcastique.

    My try: "shameless will bring you to fameless"
  48. yaow Senior Member

    Doing nonsense brings you nowhere!
    Doing nonsense makes you a nobody!
  49. Scrivener Senior Member

    English - UK
    just to keep the ball rolling:

    Any fool can be a zero.
  50. SteveRusso Senior Member

    Français de France
    :thumbsup: I like this one!

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