Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

Discussion in 'French-English Vocabulary / Vocabulaire Français-Anglais' started by lizzie chen, May 2, 2005.

  1. lizzie chen Member

    China Chinese
    hi there,
    what's the exact meaning of this saying? does it mean "the more things chage, the more they remain the same"? does it indicate other meanings?
    and under what kind of circumstances could it be used?

    i'll appreciate your help. thank you in advance.

  2. charlie2 Senior Member

    It means history repeats itself. There is a previous thread on that. It is here .
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 28, 2013
  3. DamonFarol New Member

    Santa Fe, NM
    A year later but what the heck ...
    Yes, that is the literal and common meaning of the phrase.
    The proper context is actually quite sophisticated. [Love those French]
    Consider, if you will, the circumstances before the French Revolution - a Dramatic Moment In History. After the Revolution - surprise, surprise - many of the injustices, outrages, problems - etc. were Still The Same.
    plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.

    Ditto for the American Revolution. George W. Bush is a Tory and a Royalist.

    Make your own decision about the PRC.

    A woman is unhappy with her miserable husband.
    She discards him.
    Ah ... a new love. All will now be well.
    10 years later ...
    plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose
  4. Flyliloo

    Flyliloo New Member

    perhapsthe best translation is: plus les choses changent plus elles sembles pareilles.
  5. DamonFarol New Member

    Santa Fe, NM
    Yes perhaps ~ plus les choses changent plus elles sembles pareilles ~ is better but ~ plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose ~ is the phrase that has passed into the language. Some things simply will never change and this one seems to be cast in iron. Frankly, I wouldn't know since I don't speak or read French. That, of course, is part of the problem. Some tricky idiom jumps linquistic borders and those of us oblivious to the base language will take the idiom and incorporate it or worse e.g. start changing pronunciation etc. There are some famous examples of phrases like that ... and I can't remember any of them (mostly because I never bothered to memorize). I may start posting some tricky English idioms just for fun. My starter will be: It is the exception that proves the rule. Which has almost totally, and erroneously, been used in contexts contrary to the meaning of the phrase.
  6. david314

    david314 Senior Member

    Clayton, Missouri
    American English
    To quote Toronto's finest, Rush: The more things change, the more they stay the same.
  7. Fredau

    Fredau Senior Member

    Montréal, Québec, Canada
    Canada - français
    Hello DamonFarol,

    On this side of the Atlantic, this version is the most used in the common language: plus ça change, plus c'est pareil...

  8. frenchyfries Member

    I'm reading a book that was written in the late 1970's by Agatha Christie.

    She uses the quote, "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. Plus c'est la même chose, plus ça change." to describe the changes in acient London.

    Does this quote have a historical meaning, or can it be translated literally?
  9. funnyhat Senior Member

    Michigan, USA
    American English
    I don't know where it came from, but that's a French expression that is actually very well known to English speakers. It can be literally translated into "The more things change, the more they stay the same," but often, writers don't even bother to do so, as they can appear more "refined" by using the French version.
  10. coolchick

    coolchick Senior Member

    Vancouver, BC, Canada
    English/French, Canada
    I second funnyhat.... the more things change, the more things stay the same...

    Very common expression meaning things never change! (they may appear to, but in reality they haven't).
  11. jann

    jann co-mod'

    English - USA
    The complete expression plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose is quite common in French. There is no special meaning; it is simply a saying, equivalent to our "The more things change, the more they stay the same."
    Last edited by a moderator: May 20, 2013
  12. 4EverLSU New Member

    English - Louisiana
    This is a very common way of saying in Cajun "the more things change, the more they stay the same." Its use is "nothing ever changes." French to be sure, but Cajuns weren't known for their grammar. This is a common expression I grew up around all my life.
    Last edited: May 30, 2008
  13. david314

    david314 Senior Member

    Clayton, Missouri
    American English
    It reminds me of one of King Solomons proverbs: There is nothing new under the sun. :)
  14. Word by word, the meanings are as follows Lizzie:
    Plus = more
    ça = that or rather 'that it'
    c'est= this or that is
    la même chose = the same thing

    So: 'more that it change, more it is the same thing'
    or, in fluent English - 'The more it changes, the more it remains the same thing' or even better 'You can change it all you like but it remains unchanged'

    Use it when you want to tell someone who makes a discussion out of what colour white is or what the sum of 1+3 could be.
    Very applicable to politicians and people with rhetoric skills who find it cool to tell you something simple in elegant language
    Many such applications have slipped into modern language such as the total misuse of the word "basically" (nobody can say a straight yes or no nowadays) and such words as "sustainable" which means you can keep something or someone alive and has nothing to do with re-creation

    Trust this points you in the right direction. French is a language that you have to feel and not translate word by word. It helps if you know what they mean though

  15. bischom New Member

    This phrase appears several times in English literature. Sherlock Holmes used it (or, more correctly, the first three words) in I-forget-which story. (Haven't been able to track it down.) In 1984, The Kinks used a variant in their song "Livin' on a Thin Line" from their Word of Mouth album -- "All I see is change, but inside we're the same as we ever were." (written by guitarist Dave Davies)

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