comme une poule devant un couteau

Discussion in 'French-English Vocabulary / Vocabulaire Français-Anglais' started by BenPo, Jan 14, 2011.

  1. BenPo New Member

    Je cherche à traduire en anglais l'expression 'comme une poule devant un couteau'.
    Cela illustre une situation de grand désarmement d'un employé face à un outil de travail qu'il ne parvient pas à utiliser car il n'a pas été formé.
    L'expression s'en rapprochant le plus serait : 'like a square peg in a round hole'. Existe-t-il d'autres idioms ?
    Merci à d'avance
  2. Jack-the-hat Senior Member

    English - British
    A fish out of water may work here.
  3. Jack-the-hat Senior Member

    English - British
    Like a rabbit caught in the headlights may express the moment of frozen panic in the face of impending doom, too.
  4. constantlyconfused

    constantlyconfused Senior Member

    English - British
    'comme une poule devant un couteau'

    My first thought when I saw this expression was the above rabbit in the headlights, as I assumed the chicken realised it was about to have its head lopped off.
    Can the French expression have the same meaning?
  5. wildan1

    wildan1 Moderando ma non troppo (French-English, CC Mod)

    Yes, that is the meaning of the expression as far as I know, CC. It describes a look of paralyzed panic when confronting a situation you cannot handle.

    In AE we say like a deer in the headlights--over here we see many more deer than rabbits on rural highways :p.
  6. lody2mk New Member

    i like a rabbit caught
  7. Kecha Senior Member

    French (France)
    I'm not sure the expression is supposed to mean "panic in the face of doom" or knowing you're in trouble as is it used today in France.

    A hen has no idea what a knife is and what it does, because it has no use for it. If a hen found itself in front of a knife, she'd probably do very little, just look at it in confusion and do nothing. The image associated with hens is usually that they are stupid.

    To me "comme un poule qui a trouvé un couteau" is said of someone in front of a situation they can't handle (because it's wierd/unusual, they have not been trained/explained/ever confronted to that), so they just stay there and do nothing, staring at the thing with a puzzled look on their face.

    This said, I looked up the origin which seems to be in Lybia and was something like "comme une poule qui gratte la terre de dessus un couteau" meaning "giving someone a stick to beat you with" as the hen digs up the knife that will kill it.
    But that is lost to the use of the expression today.
  8. crystel.l New Member

    I agree with Kecha. Actually, we also say "une poule embarrassée d'un couteau" et "une poule qui a trouvé une brosse-à-dents". What would be the English equivalent then?

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