lean and mean

sophie3210

Senior Member
France and French
Hi everyone,

I found in the freedictionary.com that "lean and mean" means "fit and ready for hard, efficient work."
Here is the sentence where this expression appears :

"She appeared at the door, looking lean and mean."
"Elle apparut à la porte, l'air déterminée/résolue/volontaire."

What do you think ?
Thanks :)
 
  • sophie3210

    Senior Member
    France and French
    Merci secretmargo. Tu as raison, on peut simplifier, mais je trouve la phrase un peu abrupte comme cela, non ?
     

    Omelette

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Is this another bit from your text set in 19th century England? In which case, I wouldn’t understand ‘lean and mean’ in that way?
    If it’s more contemporary and comes from AE, it’s a different story.
     
    Last edited:

    Alfred Wallace

    Member
    francais
    Et que penses tu de:
    Elle apparut à la porte manifestement déterminée. ou clairement déterminée?
    Bien déterminée, appellerait une suite....
     

    secretmargo

    Member
    France and French
    J'aime bien "clairement déterminée", ça n'apelle pas de réponse et ça rend bien l'idée de la détermination lisible sur son visage.
     

    sophie3210

    Senior Member
    France and French
    Merci à tous pour vos propositions.
    @ Alfred, j'aime beaucoup "manifestement déterminée", ça sonne bien.
    @ Omelette, yes you're right, it is once again this text that is set in the 19th c. But the author writes nowadays, so maybe she could have intended this modern meaning... Was there any other meaning you were thinking of ?
     

    Omelette

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I’d expect ‘lean’ to be ‘skinny, not fat’ and ‘mean’ to be ‘not generous, mean-spirited’. And I would have thought that the yoking of the two words to form a set expression – with a different meaning – was 1. Modern. 2. Almost certainly American in origin.
    So it would be anachronistic here, which is surprising when your author seems to have taken a lot of trouble to use language of the period. But of course if my definition – or any other taking the words with their individual primary meanings – doesn’t work, then I’m wrong.
    :)
     

    sophie3210

    Senior Member
    France and French
    You're right Omelette, the author definitely tries to give the best idea of what would be said at the time... In fact, in my first draft, I had translated "looking lean and mean" by "l'air maigre et mesquin", but I wasn't too happy with that, because though the character is lean, she is not at all mean, and she is positively "determined"...
     

    Omelette

    Senior Member
    UK English
    In that case, if she's not mean -- in the conventional sense -- you're right in your theory. (and perhaps it was used in that way then, though I would be surprised)
     
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