Jouer les pompiers de service

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James Brandon

Senior Member
English + French - UK
Do you have a good suggestion to translate the idiom, in French: "Jouer les pompiers de service"? It is colloquial and refers to somebody who is forever prepared (and willing) to go to the rescue of others. It can refer to somebody (or an organisation) that is more or less forced to play that role and may not enjoy it very much...

Eg "Les Nations-Unies jouent les pompiers de service en Afrique et au Moyen-Orient."

Thanks
 
  • James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    It does not mean "to be a volunteer firefighter" - this would be the literal meaning and does not apply, here. Would one say, in English, "to play a firefighting role"? I am not sure! Maybe there is not the exact equivalent.

    Of course, there is also the idea of "a do-gooder", which does carry some negative connotations, though...
     

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    "To play firefighter" may be understood, but I don't think I have heard it in the metaphorical sense. Adding "on duty" would sound strange, I feel.

    "To play the role of St Bernard" is a good idea, perhaps the best suggestion so far, but I don't think it is a recognised idiom (no entry comes up with a Google search, for what it is worth). I have never heard it, at any rate, but maybe it is used.

    "To be the good Samaritan" is commonly used in English but the meaning is different - it is not about helping in a crisis and putting one's life on the line, but more an idea of charity.
     

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    Yes, in fact, I believe it can (but it is "to put out"). You could hear someone say: "The British Prime Minister has been busy rushing around and putting out as many fires as he can in the past few weeks, given the turmoil within the Labour Party." This is a good suggestion.
     
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