mieux vaut une tête bien faite, plutôt qu'une tête bien pleine

Keith Lyons

Senior Member
American English
Dear People:

Via Balzac & some other French references I've come across the proverbial-sounding phrase
"Mieux vaut une tete bien faite, plutot qu'une tete bien pleine".

I know i'm missing accents here -- but what I'm really missing is the crucial sense, the French deep-culture sense of this sentence.

So this means, kind of, sort of: "better a well structured head than a full head" -- or what? Key phrsaes are "tete bien faite" & "tete bien pleine"?
This is a reference to order & disorder of some kind?
Is there a valid, well-targeted, English-language translation (or equivalent proverb?) which anyone knows of or would be so kind as to suggest?

Thank you ahead of time for whatever input you may have.

Yours gratefully: -- Keith Lyons
 
  • Sacha-Chan

    Member
    Français
    Moi, en tant que jeune française, j'ai l'impression que l'on parle de la beauté du visage dans l'expression "tête bien faite"
    Cela voudrait dire que: "Il vaut mieux être beau plutôt qu'intelligent"
     

    NemoNobody

    Senior Member
    French - France
    Last edited:

    Keith Lyons

    Senior Member
    American English
    Dear all,

    How about: "It's better to have knowledge that's well structured than to be a walking encyclopaedia"?
    Or: "Better to know the path than to be lost in a forest of knowledge"?
    Or: "When it comes to knowledge, quality of contents counts more than quantity"?
    Or: "It's not how much you know but the quality of what you know that matters most" ?

    Would any of these four be a fair, idiomatic translation?

    Isn't it the vernacular tang, after all, that rings the truest?

    Thank you:Keithy Lyons.

    (PS. I agree, the original French phrase doesn't have anything to do with a pretty face)
     

    arsham

    Senior Member
    Persian
    Dear all,

    How about: "It's better to have knowledge that's well structured than to be a walking encyclopaedia"?
    I like this one although I tend to be a walking encylopaedia (by the way you can have them on your mobile phones! :))
     
    Last edited:

    Keith Lyons

    Senior Member
    American English
    Dear Arsham,
    Thank you for the feedback vote --
    RE: It's better to have knowledge that's well structured than to be a walking encyclopaedia.
    Though I disagree about the mobile phone (& computers!) -- we don't have knowledge there, but information.
    All the best:
    -- Keith Lyons
     

    KaRiNe_Fr

    Senior Member
    Français, French - France
    Salut Keith Lyons,

    D'accord avec Interprete. Pour paraphraser : mieux vaut savoir réfléchir par soi-même que d'avoir uniquement appris les connaissances des autres.
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    Keith Lyons

    Senior Member
    American English
    Well, Uncle Bob (&, by the way, KaRiNe_Fr):

    First, most parrots I've met don't have a heck of a lot of information to spout forth.
    Remember the original idea is "tete bien pleine"-- an over-full head, being able to speak about too much, know too much, and thus not
    really communicate well. Every parrot I've met makes their few points real clear -- as Long John Silver's parrot ("Ahoy, matey!") in Stevenson's Treasure Island
    exhibited well.

    Second, can't deny however that there's a kernel of truth in your idea. A "tete bien pleine" is prone to obfuscate by virtue of repeating others' ideas ("les connaissances des autres"); the bane of most academic mish-mash writing, spec. in 2nd half of 20th cent. to the present time.

    Thanks for the feed back!

    Yrs., Keith Lyons.
     

    Uncle Bob

    Senior Member
    British English
    A "tete bien pleine" is prone to obfuscate by virtue of repeating others' ideas ("les connaissances des autres"); the bane of most academic mish-mash writing, spec. in 2nd half of 20th cent. to the present time.
    That was precisely the thing to which I was referring. ("Parrot-wise" learning being an accusation sometimes levelled at those emerging from the "Grandes Écoles" - by the newspapers Le Monde and Le Monde Diplomatique amongst others - and they certainly have full heads).
     

    Keith Lyons

    Senior Member
    American English
    Dear Uncle Bob:

    Yes, totally agreee; as Orwell said: the whole tendency of modern prose is away from concreteness. And thus: “The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns...instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink.”



    So here’s to being succint & to the point in turbulent, election-year 2012!



    Guess this wraps up
    "Mieux vaut une tête bien faite qu'une tête bien pleine" ? -- though, I'm sure, the phenomenon shall prosper.


    Best: -- Keith Lyons


    PS.
    And many thanks to "NemoNobody" for locating the quote in Montaigne :): Balzac).
     

    Keith Lyons

    Senior Member
    American English
    Folks, we get the sense -- but maybe it doesn't translate well?
    I.e. "good mind" is flat beer compared to the French tang of "une tête bien faite". No?
    -- Keith Lyons
     

    Moon Palace

    Senior Member
    French
    For what it's worth, and regardless of the quote, the Robert and Collins dictionary translates une tête bien faite by a good mind. The point is that bien faite does not really mean sharp or clever, otherwise you could say a sharp mind or use other similar adjectives.
     

    wildan1

    Moderando ma non troppo (French-English, CC Mod)
    I agree; a good mind is just bland in English. "He has a good mind" is something you might say of someone who seems intelligent but isn't doing much with it.

    Maybe if we approach it without relying on adjectives: How much is in your head is less important than how you use it.
     

    mirifica

    Senior Member
    French
    Bonjour à tous,

    better be brainy than have brains burdened with knowlege. ???
    better have an sharp (agile) mind than one burdened... ? ??
     

    franc 91

    Senior Member
    English - GB
    Knowing how to use your intelligence is far better than filling your head with some unending quantity of useless facts (suggestion) - (not that a WR Forum could in any possible way resemble such a thing, of course)
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top