whack-a-mole

carolineR

Senior Member
France
I often read about American forces playing whack-a-mole in articles dealing with Irak.
I understand the meaning : each time the attacker is "whacked" or kicked off, he only pops up again from another direction : whack the mole here and it dies, but another pops up in a different spot. Thus, the connotation is that of a repetitious and futile task, something like Hercules's attempts at slaying the Lernaean Hydra; but I would like to find a more modern translation than : "l'armée américaine joue à Hercule essayant de trancher les têtes de l'Hydre de Lerne" which sounds much more pompous than the original.
Any ideas out there ? :)
 
  • wildan1

    Moderando ma non troppo (French-English, CC Mod)
    This refers to a typical game you play in an amusement park in the US where you face a table with many holes and moles pop up rapidly in an upredictable and changing series. To win you have to hit them on the head with a mallet before their heads go back down.

    Likewise, the war in Iraq is like this game--as soon as the army tries to calm one area down, another insurgency pops up somewhere else.

    Futile game, as far as Iraq is concerned!

    PS It is a patented trademark which the manufacturer spells whac-a-mole
     
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    carolineR

    Senior Member
    France
    pitchou, "jouer au tape-taupe(s)" may be used, but I wonder which French-speaking person would understand what it means :)
    wildan1, thank you, but I knew about the game probably before you did :D
    What I am looking for is a reasonably adequate translation :)
     

    Albert 50

    Senior Member
    Canada: French and English (bilingual)
    I agree that many/most French people would have to reflect on the meaning of "jouer au tape-taupe" when they first hear it. But the same thing occured when most English-speakers first heard the expression "whack-a-mole" used in relationship to attempts to control insurgents in Iraq (remember: it's only been used for a couple of months)...

    I had never heard the expression in English until a few months ago but when the news analysts began to use it, I cogitated on it and the meaning finally came clear. The same thing would occur in French if "jouer au tape-taupe" began to be used by newspapers and croniqueurs. Most people would have to "cogitate" on it first but the word-picture would quickly anchor itself in their mind and vocabulary.

    So I'm voting for "jouer au tape-taupe"....

    Cordialement
    Albert
     

    carolineR

    Senior Member
    France
    thank you for answering, Albert, but I beg to differ : the whack-a-mole game is a real game, which was invented and played in America. Even though most Americans had to cogitate to understand its meaning when the news analysts began to use it, it does refer to something real. The "tape-taupe" game has , to my knowledge at least, never been played in France. It therefore refers to nothing and, I believe, would not be understood. So far, I stick to "l'Hydre de Lerne"-image, which French people generally know about :)
    Fresh ideas welcome, though :)
     

    wildan1

    Moderando ma non troppo (French-English, CC Mod)
    Interesting, Caroline. I have never heard of the Lernaean Hydra, which suggests that these kinds of references really are culturally-bound sometimes. Talk to me about the five-headed dragons in the Book of Revelations in the Bible, and I would understand, but not this! (To other clueless forer@s: Wikipedia will explain it all). It's a sinister and much stronger image than whac-a-mole, which lends a flavor of ridiculousness to the futility (it is pretty hard to remain serious when playing this game). Mais bon--bravo pour avoir trouvé l'équivalent vue l'expérience vécue des lecteurs ciblés !

    Je me demande si tape-taupe n'est pas un de ces merveilleux néologismes québecois qui rendent en bon français une réalité unique à l'Amérique du nord ? En googlant pourtant, on ne trouve que de références à une sorte d'étoffe... Albert ? Nicomon ? Syarigius ?

    PS Albert, I don't know how you could miss Whac-a-Mole if you have been to an amusement park in the last 20 years! (But then, maybe Texas is different... :rolleyes:) It's true, however, that it didn't exist when I went there as a kid...
     

    eplume

    Senior Member
    French - France
    pour moi ça sonne comme une corde sans fin tout ça!

    En tout cas, maintenant je sais que ce fameux jeux s'appelle whac-a-mole. Bien qu'ayant passé l'âge, j'y ai joué, je crois que ce n'était même pas aux USA. En tout cas, en France, never heard about tape-taupe! ;) Sans ce sujet, je n'aurais certainement pas su ce qu'était un tape taupe.... :)

    Quant aux autres références, effectivement, ça demande quand même un certain niveau de culture. Tout dépend du type de lecteurs que l'on cible!

    Je suis certaine qu'il y a une meilleure alternative...
     

    Periscope

    Senior Member
    France / French
    Je pense aussi que tape-taupe ne veut absolument rien dire en français (pour les français), je ne savais même pas que ce mot existait et même en y réfléchissant bien, je ne pense que la signification soit explicite. Mais le mot est néanmoins joli ;)

    J'aurais peut-être une suggestion qui consisterait à utiliser l'expression suivante :

    Le jeu du chat et de la souris

    A chaque fois que le chat tente d'attrapper la souris, elle s'enfuit. Cela pourrait peut-être convenir au contexte de l'article.

    Sinon je suggère aussi :

    Un cercle sans fin

    Qui vient confirmer que lorsqu'on a fini avec un foyer (d'attaquants par exemple), c'est un autre qui prend le relai.

    Je doute que l'on puisse trouver une expression français se rapprochant de whack-a-mole :D
     

    carolineR

    Senior Member
    France
    une suggestion moins référence culturelle que les travaux d'Hercule : l'armée américaine joue avec les terroristes au jeu de "chassez-le par la porte et il rentrera par la fenêtre", peut-être ?
     

    Cilquiestsuens

    Senior Member
    French
    Reviving this old thread because I think the expression : "remplir le tonneau des danaides", is a closer hit than the ones suggested above.... Although it may be higher register than whack-a-mole. Wiki says:

    « tonneau des Danaïdes », qui désigne une tâche absurde ou sans fin.
    Anyone with a better suggestion is welcome.
     

    hpages

    New Member
    français
    I would suggest "parer au plus pressé," as in practice the use of the expression seems to refer to people buying time or handling a particular situation as best as they can.
     

    salvin

    New Member
    français
    I would suggest "parer au plus pressé," as in practice the use of the expression seems to refer to people buying time or handling a particular situation as best as they can.
    PauL Krugman dans son blog du NYT : May 3 2013

    Le titre : Playing Whack-a-Mole With Expansionary Austerity

    Pour comprendre, je me retrouve ici !

    On est bien dans "le jeu de massacre" entre macroéconomistes ?
     

    Kecha

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    PauL Krugman dans son blog du NYT : May 3 2013

    Le titre : Playing Whack-a-Mole With Expansionary Austerity

    Pour comprendre, je me retrouve ici !

    On est bien dans "le jeu de massacre" entre macroéconomistes ?
    Un peu compliqué, j'ai du lire l'article pour comprendre.

    Je pense que l'image est que Alesina-Ardagna, tout comme les taupes du jeu de foire, a juste "baissé la tête" dans son trou sans que le maillet le touche, et réapparait donc dans un autre trou plus loin = comme cette théorie n'a pas été détruite de manière suffisamment spectaculaire et publique (contrairement à Reinhart-Rogoff), on continue d'en parler, elle continue de réapparaitre, quand bien même elle a été démontrée comme fausse.

    Je pense que la traduction du titre serait plutôt quelque chose avec "ressurgir", "refaire surface", etc.
     

    Kelly B

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Et si on parlait de Sisyphe au lieu du Hercule ?

    (there are lots of examples where the French routinely use a literary myth reference where Americans would choose either something more pedestrian or a Bible reference. Scylle et Charybde ? A rock and a hard place, and so forth. I read a lot of mythology in my teens so I recognize most of them, but a lot of otherwise well-read people I know do not.)

    edit - ah, I see I'm a little late for this one. Oh, well.
     
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    Salvatos

    Senior Member
    French - Québec
    Le jeu du chat et de la souris
    (...)

    Je doute que l'on puisse trouver une expression français se rapprochant de whack-a-mole :D
    Au contraire, je trouve cette suggestion fantastique ! On y retrouve à la fois le jeu et la futilité, mais avec une expression déjà bien ancrée dans la francophonie. Je prends ! :)
     

    guillaumedemanzac

    Senior Member
    English - Southern England Home Counties
    Greek legend and Camus philosophy Le Mythe de Sisyphe.
    Also in our local play park whack-a-frog - a game for French children to improve reflexes where you have to whack (with a cloth hammer) whichever of 12 frogs puts his head up out of a hole.
    Tape un taupe! - Bash a frog! --- but it is not an impossible task like Sisyphus and the Danaides - just a reflex training game.
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    Nobody's mentioned the fact that the phrase "whack-a-mole" (almost solely AE) owes some of its prevalence to the pun on "guacamole" (= purée d'avocats). It was unknown before 1976 and very little used until the early 1990s. Still extremely rare in the UK.
     

    Soleil_Couchant

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Nobody's mentioned the fact that the phrase "whack-a-mole" (almost solely AE) owes some of its prevalence to the pun on "guacamole" (= purée d'avocats). It was unknown before 1976 and very little used until the early 1990s. Still extremely rare in the UK.
    Maybe no one's mentioned it because it's an urban legend that the two are connected (and the first time I'm hearing of it). The two don't even sound the same (one has three syllables, the other four, to start)... do you have solid proof to back that up lol? Whack-a-mole was just a game of whacking moles that pop up.

    Okay I found this: Whac-a-mole vs. GuacamoleWhac-a-mole vs. Guacamole

    According to this site (who knows how accurate), the whack-a-mole name had nothing to do with guacamole. But later, in Spanish-speaking countries only, they did play off of it because the way they pronounced that game (with "mole" having two syllables), it did sound more like guac. But I don't think that's a "thing" in English-speaking countries, at least it never was when I was growing up.
     
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    Bezoard

    Senior Member
    French - France
    It is not that simple.
    But the weird part of the answer is that Guaca-mole is a trademarked name for the game in Spain, Mexico, and other Spanish-speaking countries. "The reason for this name, Lane says, is that pronunciation in Spanish is very similar for Whac-a-Mole and Guaca-Mole." So the two words are linked, in a roundabout way.
    Whac-a-mole vs. Guacamole
    I believe that those who coined the trademark name may have intended a pun.
     

    Soleil_Couchant

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I think we must have cross posted (or, when I added my edit later, you didn't see it). I quoted that website, too. According to the site we both referenced, they did not intend the pun. While some Spanish-speaking companies later played off of it (because they pronounced the English word "mole" in whack-a-mole like the Spanish word "mol-ey"...making it sound a bit more like guacamole) ...in America, that was not a thing.
     

    ain'ttranslationfun?

    Senior Member
    US English
    Whether the game's creators wanted to link "Whac(k)-a-mole' and 'guacamole' (one more syllable) or not, I like "tape-taupe'! (In Bush's wars, in EN & in FR there may be a reference to mole/taupe meaning 'embedded spy, too.) The 'hydra' image came to me at first too; I think most people would understand (without 'Lernaean', which I didn't know either). I also think 'many-headed' would work. The reference to Sysiphus would also be apt for me, but neither 'Scylla and Charybdis' ('a rock and a hard place'/'the devil and the deep blue sea') nor "jouer au chat et à la souris' would.
     
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    guillaumedemanzac

    Senior Member
    English - Southern England Home Counties
    As an estuary English speaker, guacamole and whackamole have the same number of syllables = 3 (or tree - I am half-Irish) and I saw that connection at first. :cool::confused:
     

    guillaumedemanzac

    Senior Member
    English - Southern England Home Counties
    Sorry, Estuary English does NOT pronounce final "e" in guacamole. Except in Paree (Paris), employee, Tennessee, payee, devotee, etc.

    Which part of Florida are you from?????:confused::):thumbsup::):)

    Apostrophe, semaphore, catastrophe, Aphrodite, debutante, (actually numbers 2 and 5 but not 1,3,4)

    hole, pole, cole, role, regime, supreme, parasite, aconite, xenophobe, astrolabe, pilgrimage, ……..
     

    Soleil_Couchant

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Florida? No, I've never lived there. In the US, where the "whac-a-mole" game was given that name, we say guacamole with four syllables. Maybe because we're close to Mexico; I don't know. Your examples don't make sense in this context. Debutante is a French word, for example. So it makes sense that "e" is "silent," so to speak. It doesn't follow the same rules as Spanish...

    As for the English word for the animal, mole...yes, just one syllable. Rhymes with pole. Hence, in the US, the "mole" in "gaucamole" and the word for the animal, "mole," are not pronounced the same. Maybe in Estuary English, okay. But this game was invented in America, and there, we don't pronounce it like how you're saying. We pronounce it like "ghwak-a-mol-ey." Here: American Pronunciation of guacamole by Macmillan Dictionary

    Hence, as quoted in the article linked above, some Spanish speakers later played off this, since their pronunciation of the English word "mole" in whack-a-mole was like their pronunciation of the Spanish word mole, "molay". But (according to that article), the person who made the original game/name was not playing off the two words. Not sure how much clearer I can be!
     

    Kelly B

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Pozole, tamale.... guacamole is a Mexican food item, and US E speakers manage to pronounce most of those correctly, more or less*. Since whack-a-mole is chiefly US English too, I share SoleilCouchant's skepticism about the origin of the phrase. And even if that was the original intent, that association would be awfully tenuous today. I don't buy it.

    (*unlike French loan words...)
     

    guillaumedemanzac

    Senior Member
    English - Southern England Home Counties
    My French play centre "Wakari" has two of these machines called Crazy Frog and Frog Frenzy both from NBC-vending.com.

    The co-ordinator says there is also one called Tapez la Taupe = Whack the mole - but in French no connection with Guacamolé - it just says tapez (hit) the mole (taupe)
     
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