1. nadeline Senior Member

    Hi everybody,

    I get a problem with the expression " spill the beer " which I don't understand in my context so could you give me a help please ?

    "Here is a list of words to make an evolutionary biologist spill their beer : purpose, teleology ... "

    spill the beer means "renverser la bière" but I guess that there's no french equivalent expression ..and why did he use " their " instead of "his " ?
  2. OLN

    OLN Senior Member

    French - France, ♀
  3. nadeline Senior Member

    indeed I know that their is used for his, her but it's slang so I am very surprised cause it came from a well known scientist writer ...

    anyway, the most important is the clair understanding of the equivalent expression spill the beer in our language .:)
  4. ando51 Senior Member

    UK, English
    "Their" isn't really slang although it is probably more informal. It's often used when the person referrred to (i.e. biologist) could be either male or female, so it's a way of avoiding saying his/her It is also routinely used instead of both in everyday speech. "Spill their beer" in this context would mean "spill their beer in annoyance, disgust dismay" I think. I don't know that it's a routine expression, if so it's a modern one,
  5. bh7 Senior Member

    Limestone City
    Canada; English
    Nadeline, it isn't slang (the WordRef Dict. notation is in error on this point). See this illuminating article on the Singular they. This is not a recent politically correct use either; although rare, it occurs in the Bible and in Shakespeare. Its use has gained ground substantially in recent years, to the extent that it has become the norm rather than the exception here. There is even a long-term project in the works of editing all Canadian federal laws to employ gender-neutral language, which will bring with it of course a liberal use of the singular they/them/their. I personally still find this use a bit jarring, but we all will have to get used to it.

    As to "spill one's beer", its use is figurative in the cited context. When evolutionary biologists hear the quoted words, they may tend to get quite upset because the offending words betray a view of life on earth that, as seen from their standpoint, is irrational, unscientific, and amounts to equating scientifc theories with systems of supernatural belief. Expressions similar to "spill their beer" would be "make them see red", "get their knickers into a knot", "raise their hackles", "make their hair stand on end", "make them wring their hands". Les biologistes évolutionnistes voient rouge quand on leur parle de téléologie, etc.
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2009
  6. nadeline Senior Member

    Thanks a lot bh7 !

    I thought it was slang as said here ! So I 'm happy to learn a new use for that word !

    about to "spill their beer" , I knew it was a figurative sense but I didn't find the right expression for a better translation ..so tanks again .

    when you said "make their hair stand on end",
    en français nous disons :
    " faire dresser les cheveux droit sur la tête .. "
    and what's about " raised their hackles " ? : "élever ses chaines " ????
    it doesn't sound right in french ..
  7. bh7 Senior Member

    Limestone City
    Canada; English
    hackles => les poils du cou
    raise sb's hackles => hérisser qn

    Not to be confused with "shackles" = chaînes; [fig.] entraves.
  8. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    Strictly speaking, hackles isn't les poils du cou, it's les plumes du cou. Also an artifical fly in angling.
  9. spatula

    spatula Senior Member

    English - London (Irish ethnicity)
    Hi Nadeline

    If I walked into a bar where you were drinking a pint of Stella Artois, and I gave you the news that you had won the lottery and were now a millionaire, you would be so surprised that you would undoubtedly 'spill your beer' in shock!

    It's an amusing expression, à propos of nothing very much, which you can apply to mean that a person, in any situation, has been surprised, usually because of news they've been given. They do not necessarily need to be in a bar, nor do they need to be drinking beer nor, sadly, do they need to have just become millionaires!

    You could equally say that the person 'nearly fell off their chair'. Same thing. And, note my use of the word 'their' here. It's my way of getting round the fact that I don't know if this person is male or female. Very common usage.

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