Occitan: En mai un gous es magre, en mai las mouscos le picour (late 18th c. expression)

poumairat

New Member
English
I'm assisting with the translation of a French journal from 1796-1798, and there is a single phrase that has stumped me (an English speaker) and several French-speaking translators, but we think it may be Occitan:

"En mai un gous es magre, en mai las mouscos le picour."

The phrase appears in the context of the author relating an incident in which all of his laundry is lost. By the way he underlines this and other phrases, it is clearly some common expression from the time. Perhaps similar in intent to the English expression, "easy come, easy go". A native French (and non-Occitan speaker) thought it might be something like, "In May the dog is skinny, in May the flies are pecking at it."

If anyone can shed light on what this phrase could mean in English (or French) -- and any context for the expression -- I'd be very grateful! Thanks :)
 
  • Dymn

    Senior Member
    I would suggest "the more... the more...".

    I'm surprised a French speaker identified "gous" considering such a word doesn't exist in French. From what I see, this is used in the Aude department which is understandable since in neighbouring Catalan it's "gos".
     

    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    I concur with Dymn. That "en mai" has nothing to do with the month but with the word "more", which is mai in Occitan. In Catalan a close sentence could be said: Més un gos és magre, més les mosques el piquen.

    So it surely means The more a dog is lean, the more flies bite it. Which means the same as the old proverb The lean dog is all fleas. In Spanish, a perro flaco todo son pulgas is still quite used. The proverb means that misfortune hits the most on those who are already in poor condition.
     

    poumairat

    New Member
    English
    Thanks ... that is very helpful! It's interesting that there is still an equivalent expression...

    A couple of Occitan speakers on another language forum translated this similarly: "The skinnier the dog, the more the flies bite it." En mai un gos es magre, en mai las moscas le pican. (Looking back at the original handwritten journal, the writer actually wrote "picoun" not "picour".)

    I wasn't sure if he meant something along the lines that the world kicks you when you're down, or that people take advantage of others' misfortunes. Your references to the proverb and Spanish expression seem to indicate it is more the former.
     
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