Thursday, 19 November 2009

jeu de mains, jeu de vilains

is what the commentators are saying on the French media today about Thierry Henry's deliberate handball which stole the match last night. For non-Francophone readers "mains" is "hands" and "vilains" these days means "bad people", so the meaning of the proverb should be obvious. However, similarly to English, where "villain" means a bad person and "villein" meant a medieval non-knight person, "les vilains" in medieval France were people who did not carry weapons and so had to fight with their fists if they wanted a fight. Here is an online explanation of the proverb for today's readers:

Cette locution proverbiale trouve son origine au Moyen Âge. Elle était alors utilisée en référence aux "vilains", dont les altercations finissaient souvent en véritables bagarres. Aujourd'hui, elle fait plutôt allusion au sexe.

I'll leave readers to work it out. Ahem.

But I still think Thierry Henry should have been sent off. And nice Michel who brings our internal mail round feels bad about the result. "C'est dommage", he says.

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