Paris vaut bien une messe

Discussion in 'French-English Vocabulary / Vocabulaire Français-Anglais' started by crumjac, May 22, 2007.

  1. crumjac New Member

    New York City
    USA English
    This was said by Henri Bourbon (who became Henry IV) when he converted to Catholicism in order to ascend the throne of France.

    I've always heard (and read) it translated as "Paris is worth a mass," but more recently, a French professor told me a better translation would be “Paris is well worth a Mass.” I'm using it in something I'm writing and so would like to gather more informed opinions since neither I nor the professor are native French speakers.

    Thank you.
     
  2. j12345 New Member

    Canada/ English
    Hi Crumjac,
    I'm not a native speaker of French, but I've studied this period of history in France and I think Henry's attitude could allow this to be translated "Paris is easily worth a Mass." (note the devalorisation of the Mass versus Paris).
     
  3. LARSAY Senior Member

    Hanoi, Vietnam
    BI-NATIONAL FRENCH-ENGLISH.
    Your teacher is right. Henry IV said bien to emphasize that becoming King of France was really worth becoming a catholic. In English: "Paris is well worth a mass!".
     
  4. Denis the fatalist Senior Member

    Monaco Monte-Carlo
    France/French
    A horse for a kingdom as it were...
     
  5. Agent Literary

    Agent Literary Senior Member

    Paris, France
    England, English
    I think the meaning was the opposite, originally, but I see what you mean :)

    I agree with LARSAY - your teacher is right.
     
  6. Denis the fatalist Senior Member

    Monaco Monte-Carlo
    France/French
    indeed. My kingdom for a horse ! (Uncle Shakespeare, Richard III)...
     
  7. clairet

    clairet Senior Member

    London & Bordeaux
    England & English (UK version)
    fine, the exchange idea is common, but I hope all readers will realise that Richard III was offering to give his kingdom away and Henri IV was acquiring his. The two phrases are not interchangeable.
     
  8. Alphatradien1 Senior Member

    France French
    Bref, si on calque l'expression sur l'Oncle Shakespeare, on pourrait dire : "Paris for a mass!" Is that right?
     
  9. Agent Literary

    Agent Literary Senior Member

    Paris, France
    England, English
    No. As clairet said, the two expressions are not interchangeable. Henry was not giving anything up for Paris, but rather taking something on (ie. Catholicism). Richard, on the other hand, was offering to surrender something (his kingdom) in order to gain a horse.
     
  10. clairet

    clairet Senior Member

    London & Bordeaux
    England & English (UK version)
    Perhaps I'm being tedious, but if you use the Shakespeare form you are saying you'd give Paris away in exchange for a mass. On the other hand, if you used this phrase to describe your achievement to someone else, it would work, as in "(I got) Paris for a mass". The "I got" could just be implied.
     
  11. Denis the fatalist Senior Member

    Monaco Monte-Carlo
    France/French
    Sorry... I think it's the exact opposite. Maybe they're right : meaning too much kills meaning...
     
  12. Agent Literary

    Agent Literary Senior Member

    Paris, France
    England, English
    Il semble que nous sommes tout à fait d'accord :)
     
  13. Alphatradien1 Senior Member

    France French
    Ooops! I didn't see Clairet's remark. Sorry....
    Could we say "Paris in exchange for a mass", then?
    Or perhaps the reverse? I know I am not the thread opener, but I am interested in the answer as well, say, pour la beauté du geste ! Thks in advance.
     
  14. Agent Literary

    Agent Literary Senior Member

    Paris, France
    England, English
    Again, not really because there is no real exchange going on here. He is not swapping Paris for a mass. You could say, however, "My Protestantism for Paris," but that contradicts the all important tone of the original. Henry was not despairing (Richard was); he was jovially accepting the minor inconvenience of taking mass in exchange for the city of Paris.
     
  15. LARSAY Senior Member

    Hanoi, Vietnam
    BI-NATIONAL FRENCH-ENGLISH.
    Well, he did not say "my Protestantism for Paris", but that is exactly what it meant, since he promised to rejoin the Catholic Church if he was accepted as King of France by the French Catholics
     
  16. wightmouse Member

    Bath, UK
    English - England
    To come back to this again, can anyone think of an equivalent expression in English? I am trying to translate 'la planete vaut bien la messe', and am not sure that ' the planet is well worth a mass' will mean very much to the English reader.
    Thanks so much!
     
  17. clairet

    clairet Senior Member

    London & Bordeaux
    England & English (UK version)
    The French phrase seems odd. The planet, unlike Paris in the early C17, isn't signed up to Catholicism so it's hard to see that adopting the latter will help anyone gain it. However...a rather unimaginative English equivalent is "the planet is worth making a sacrifice for". (Henri IV sacrificed his Protestantism for Catholicism which he thought was the condition of his gaining Paris.)
     

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