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Can anyone explain this expression in French s'il vous plait?

(22 Posts)
backjustforaminute Sat 15-Oct-11 19:12:36

'Tu ne paye pas de mine mais tu te tiens bien à table'

Even after six years in France and the help of Google translator, I'm stumped grin

laptopwieldingharpy Sat 15-Oct-11 19:16:03

I guess you already know it's condescending?
Meant to be a compliment but so very typically rude.

ComeIntoTheGardenMaud Sat 15-Oct-11 19:21:48

Who said it to you?

ComeIntoTheGardenMaud Sat 15-Oct-11 19:22:32

Assuming that someone said it to you. Which of course they might not have.

ImpYCelyn Sat 15-Oct-11 19:47:37

It's bloody rude, but dressed up as compliment.

Or are you not sure of the actual translation?

"You really don't look it/I'd never have guessed it, but you actually have good table manners", basically.

backjustforaminute Sat 15-Oct-11 21:13:35

sad Yes, it was said to me by someone at work. I did actually think it meant what ImpYCelyn said, but wasn't sure IYKWM? It's quite difficult sometimes to judge if someone is being tongue in cheek / condescending / rude, and even more difficult to reply especially when it's your boss with whom you'll soon be negociating your salary

This living abroad thing is an etiquette minefield grin

supergreenuk Sat 15-Oct-11 21:19:33

Am I missing the point. Doesn't it just mean please.

adesias Sun 16-Oct-11 11:18:42

I am French.
I think it is not especially meant to be rude, but the French sometimes don't see rudeness where other cultures do.
"You really don't look it/I'd never have guessed it, but you actually have good table manners" is a correct translation, but what they really meant to say is:
"You have a good figure, and yet a healthy appetite", which could actually have been thought of as a kind of a compliment, although I think you should know someone quite well to dare say that to them.
"...ne paye pas de mine..." = "has a deceiving appearance"
" bien se tenir à table" normally means "have good table manners", but in this case, I think it is more like "to do justice to the cook", i.e. not leaving half your food on the plate, leaving the host in doubt whether you are really full or you actually didn't really like it. This would apply more for private occasions. So if it was at work, it was probably a naive (therefore possibly rude) way of saying "I can't believe how thin you are with the quantities of food you gobble down". Coming from a woman, it could be oozing a little jealousy, from a man, take it as an observation (like, thinking aloud): in his experience, (French) women stay thin by mainly starving themselves...
Hope I have helped.

ImpYCelyn Sun 16-Oct-11 16:38:42

See I can see how it could be meant how adesias says, but in my experience people only start with "tu ne paye pas de mine mais..." when they're about to say something condescending.

I ran it past DH (also French) and he also interpreted it as a dig at your table manners. He can see how it might be the other, but thinks your boss would have to be very clumsy with his French to use it like that.

So I suppose it depends whether you're disposed to thinking your boss meant it as an insult or not. For your own sake I think you should go with adesias' version.

sommewhereelse Sun 16-Oct-11 19:54:38

Funny, I've only ever heard 'ne paye pas de mine' followed by compliments. Eg when you go to a restaurant which looks a bit shabby but the food turns out to be fantastic.

ImpYCelyn Sun 16-Oct-11 20:10:21

Sorry I've just realised I didn't mean "a dig at your table manners", but rather a dig at you via your table manners iyswim.

sommewhereelse - I agree the second part normally is a compliment, but when it's being said to someone the overall effect is condescending. I don't think it's particularly complimentary to be told "you don't look it, but...", it's a backhanded compliment.

backjustforaminute Sun 16-Oct-11 21:42:01

grin I think I'm going to have to go with adesias' interpretation... I'm not very confident & this is a fairly new, very good job and I feel a bit out of my depth a lot of the time, not with the actual work but the 'social' side of it!

Give it a couple of years and I'll write a book about Life In France à la Peter Mayle wink

AuldAlliance Mon 17-Oct-11 19:52:12

That is a truly backhanded compliment.

If it is any consolation, I once worked with a lady who wore the most outrageously skintight outfits and was notoriously incompetent and unreliable, as well as bitchy, but managed to wind some men round her little finger. She was from Mauritius originally, and after one trip home she suddenly handed me a brown envelope. As I opened it, to reveal a truly garish polyester headscarf with bright apples, oranges and other random fruit on it, she purred, "I brought it back for you to brighten up your outfits, as you always wear such drab colours that it makes me feel depressed."

When you have been brought up in the UK I just don't think you are armed for this type of warfare.

BarryKent Mon 17-Oct-11 19:56:35

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

AuldAlliance Mon 17-Oct-11 20:27:58

Yes, I looked pretty much like that stunned emoticon, BarryKent.

Have just realised it maybe wasn't clear from my post, but this was relevant to the thread as I live and work in France...

backjustforaminute Mon 17-Oct-11 21:00:24

- Looks self up and down to see why I might look like I have poor table manners
- Looks self up and down to see if I'm too thin, and that's why they're suprised I eat so much
- Looks self up and down to see if I'm too fat, and that's why they're suprised I eat so little
- Remembers every meal and everything I ever said over the 3 day work trip, wondering what unwritten rule I might have broken
- Maybe it was the alcohol? Maybe drinking as much as the guys isn't the done thing? (though not many of us nobody actually got drunk, I def didn't)
- Or the cigarettes? French women smoke a lot, can't have been that
- Maybe it's because I'm veggie? They all looked at me like shock when I admitted to that

confused dissolves into pool of self doubt and wonders what other back handed compliments I might have missed grin

backjustforaminute Mon 17-Oct-11 21:02:14

Auldalliance, what did you say? What could you possibly say??

sommewhereelse Mon 17-Oct-11 21:31:50

Yes, I can see with reflection that it would be a back handed compliment used about a person. I've never heard it used about anyone before, only about things.

Drinking as much as the guys is definitely not the done thing.

AuldAlliance Mon 17-Oct-11 21:38:33

I said nothing. I was gobsmacked.

It was 10 yrs ago, and to this day I still have not come up with a clever response to such a nasty comment. The woman is question has dark hair and skin and looked great in bright colours (though even she would have had trouble carrying off the hideous scarf). I have pale skin and cannot attempt to wear that type of colour.

I wouldn't waste any time worrying about what your boss meant. He may not even have been very sure himself, especially if wine was involved. I find that French lends itself fatally well to comments that seem witty/funnny, etc. when they start the journey from brain to mouth, but actually come out totally, totally wrong.

AuldAlliance Mon 17-Oct-11 21:40:59

ooh, veggie, eh? I missed that detail. That may have been what did it. Maybe he meant he expected you to be ascetic because of that, but was pleasantly surprised to find you are actually normal?

ImpYCelyn Mon 17-Oct-11 21:45:10

Being veggie and drinking as much as the men is definitely unusual.

I got asked if I was a vegetarian in a restaurant one (I'm not) because I asked not to have smoked salmon on my seafood starter. The waitress recommended the lamb for a main course hmm That was only 5 years ago. They're definitely getting better with vegetarians, but it does make me laugh sometimes grin

adesias Mon 17-Oct-11 22:45:25

I've been thinking: the "table manners" could also refer to not being fussy, e.g. not fishing out the onion or the fennel bits because you don't like them.

Of course, with hindsight, the best option would have been to ask, in an innocent tone of voice (if possible), "qu'est-ce que tu veux dire par là?" (what do you mean by that?), "que je ne chipote pas?" (that I'm not fussy) "ou bien que j'ai un bon coup de fourchette?" (or that I heartily tuck in).

If it was rather about your elbows keeping away from the table and the masticating not being performed with the mouth open, or even ajar, then he would have to embarrass himself telling you so.
Embarrassing, because that would mean he was being prejudiced thinking that that-person-from-the-country-where-they-boil-the-chicken-before-they-dip-it-in-the-fish-frying-oil* could not behave herself at the table of the magnificent man-induced-cirrhosis-sick-duck-liver-gobbling refined gourmets.

*Unless you come from the KFC-and-McDo-United-to-turn-the rest-of-the-world-into-a-bunch-of-sugar-addicted-obese-tastebudless-sacrilegious-anti-foodies-States.

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