Prendre les choses au premier/second degré

Discussion in 'French-English Vocabulary / Vocabulaire Français-Anglais' started by Yann, Nov 3, 2005.

  1. Yann New Member

    Bonjour à tous !

    In French we have a very useful expression when something you say should not be taken seriously: c'est du second degré — "it's second degree". So naturally, when someone seems to take a joke too seriously, you remind him that il faut le prendre au second degré — "you have to take it at the second degree" — and if you find you often have to remind this person about this, you will probably conclude that il prend tout au premier degré — "he takes everything at the first degree".
    Premier degré — "first degree" — can also refer to a story/film that you find uselessly serious and pompous. In this case you will say that the story/actors is/are trop premier degré — "too first-degree".

    Do you have any equivalent for "premier degré" and "second degré" in English? :)

    Thanks in advance!
  2. texasweed

    texasweed Banned

    French-born/US English
    Yes we do :
    to take something litterally, (1er degré)
    to look below the surface of something (2ème degrée)
  3. Yann New Member

    Hello Texasweed,

    could you give me some examples?

    Thank you. ;)
  4. Aupick

    Aupick Senior Member

    Strasbourg, France
    UK, English
    My suggestions:

    To take something at face value
    To take something with a pinch of salt

    Example: That Yann's a real prankster. You can't take him at face value. You have to take everything he says with a pinch of salt.

    I'm sure there are others. I'll let you know if I think of them...
  5. Yann New Member

    Hey, how do you know that? ;)

    Thanks for those examples. Would « to take something at face value » work when talking about a film « trop premier degré »? :)
  6. texasweed

    texasweed Banned

    French-born/US English

    In the case of a movie, I'd use "to take something literally" but Aupick is right also.

    I'd take newspapers preliminary reports with a grain of salt until proof is ascertained.
    I do not perceive what I see in a movie too literally though : it's only a movie.
  7. Aupick

    Aupick Senior Member

    Strasbourg, France
    UK, English
    Another possibility for 'au premier degré': to take someone at their word. But this only works for people.

    For a movie I prefer 'take something literally'.
  8. kertek

    kertek Senior Member

    UK English
    When you say "trop premier degré" for a film, do you mean as a way of describing the film? i.e. a little one-dimensional.
  9. kertek

    kertek Senior Member

    UK English
    also a friend of mine always protests that when we laugh at something she says, "mais c'était du second degré!" I've always taken this to mean "But I was being ironic!" - is that it?
  10. Yann New Member

    Texasweed and Aupick: thanks a lot for the additional details!

    Kertek: yes I meant it as a way to describe the film. Thanks for your translation!

    You got it pile-poil! :)
  11. zach.waddle New Member

    French France
    Hi, thanks for this contribution.
    How does one say 'humour au second degré'? 'humour with a pinch of salt'? Doesn't sound really good!! Is there any way to say it?...
  12. Gardefeu Senior Member

    French (France)
    Tongue in cheek humour (very British!)
  13. melancolique

    melancolique Senior Member

    on peut dire ca aux e-u aussi.

    en anglais, un film 'trop premiere degre':
    "the film takes itself too seriously."

    aussi pour quelqu'n:

    "he takes himself too seriously"

    d'habitude, je dis "Don't take everything so seriously!", et c'est comme "il faut le prendre le second degre"

    very much used!!
  14. NancyBurgess New Member

    Might it not also be accurate, in some contexts, to talk about having no sense of irony (premier degré), or ironic humour, or even a situation being played ironically (second degré)?

    For instance, many British marketing campaigns fail abroad, as their ironic presentation is completely misunderstood by non-British audiences. In this context, the premier degré approach means really you are unable to detect comic irony, and therefore the whole effect of something is lost on you.
  15. not_using_my_real_name Senior Member

    French - France
    the meanings are different, I'm afraid

    "this film takes itself too seriously."
    = ce film se prend trop au sérieux

    un film trop premier degré =
    a movie that is too litteral, one-dimensional, with no distance (for different angles, opinons, seing the irony in some situations)

    "he takes himself too seriously"
    = il se prend trop au sérieux

    il est trop premier degré
    = he's too litteral (whatever happens, he'll take it at face value, even if it's very obviously to be taken with distance, eg responding stiffly, literally, officially to innocent banter)

    "Don't take everything so seriously!", et c'est comme "il faut le prendre le second degre"
    no, sorry, it's not, but it's exactly like "(Ne) Prends (donc) pas tout (ça) si au sérieux !"

    "il faut le prendre le second degre" does not work in French as is, but
    "il faut le prendre au second degré" = one must take it with a pinch of salt, not take it at face value (meaning one must understand it is intentionally lame, as a joke, and not directly lame period)

    My attempt at an example/definition of "humour au second degré" would be :

    humour au premier degré= humor that is really very funny and you laugh instantly because of the great joke

    humour au second degré= e.g. an intentionally lame, corny, non-funny, or overused joke, told by someone who knows perfectly well it is non-funny, but who delivers it to mock the "first degree people"
    The "first degree people" are those who honestly find that joke funny

    eg, someone famous for their sense of humor (say, Jerry Seinfeld) starting a standup routine with "I was walking down the street the other day with my mother-in-law... "
    this MUST be "humour au second degré"
    you KNOW he cannot say this innocently, honestly just finding it funny, period. (That would be "au premier degré")
    what is funny is to mocks OTHER people who still honestly find such tired clichés funny,
    or what is funny is that he includes the audience in a show of "let's all deliberately come up with non-funny stuff and have fun with this!"

    I guess it's called "SECOND degré" because it involves a SECOND layer of people in-between

    I rest my case

    (or you know what? I'll repost that brilliant 'definition' into another thread. You're welcome)

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