Wednesday, August 27, 2008

La chèvre et le chou

No, it's not usual to come across a goat and a cabbage in the middle of Paris ! I simply spotted this cute little scene in front of a restaurant in the 15th arrondissement (235 bis rue Saint Charles more precisely) called La chèvre et le chou (the goat and the cabbage). The funny part - well, if you're interested in improving your French - is that this name is also a pretty common expression that we use when we're in a situation where we have to please two opposite parties. I believe the translation in English would be "To have one's cake and eat it too".


  1. Oh 'she' is so nice..sweet goat!
    Are we still in Paris, it doesn't look like!

  2. Are the people who put the display together worried that someone will steal their goat? The chain around it's neck is interesting when it already has a collar...
    Thanks for the information, I never learned that saying in French...

  3. I love the PINK and GREEN and WHITE. The textures are complimentary. And the goat has sucha a sweet face. Great photo for a PG13 blog.

  4. Guille wins the crown again! Hi Justin -- good to see you.

  5. To have one's cake and eat it too ?.. Okay I'm still looking for an explanation...anyway, "ménager la chèvre et le chou" is not more clear!!

  6. Perhaps the equivalent in English would be "between a rock and a hard place."

  7. I agree with anonyme that caught between a rock and a hard place would be the equivalent for a saying that means to try to please two people - though there might be a more direct equivalent.

    To want to have one's cake and eat it too means to want the profit or gain in both sides of a deal, that is, to pay no price. The opposite saying, which makes it a little clearer is: "You can't have your cake and eat it, too." Its not limited to transactions though - perhaps other people can come up with examples, I'm blanking out on one right now.

  8. My daughter use to work at the Children's Zoo in San Francisco. There was one little goat named Pan (you can guess why). They use to separate him from the little girl goats with a fence. One little girl goat would walk very close to the fence and tease him because he couldn't have it. She use to drive him crazy. He would jump on the fence over and over. He was losing his mind. I still laugh when I picture him.

  9. A lovely photo of the little restaurant mascot. I like the secondary little scene of the figure walking down the sidewalk along the colonnade (did you have rain? The sidewalk looks wet.). Wonderful light and colors, Eric! It reminds me to finish up at dinner tonight the little bit of chevre cheese I bought from the farmers market.
    Seattle Daily Photo

  10. I agree with Carrie.
    The French for "having one's cake and eat it" is probably "vouloir le beurre et l'argent du beurre", which you can reinforce by adding "... Et le sourire de la crémière !" I want the butter and the money for the butter... and also a smile from the lady who made it ;-)

  11. ...when we're in a situation where we have to please two opposite parties.

    It also might be similar to having to "rob Peter to pay Paul." Either way, one of them would be displeased.

  12. Eric, this is quite clever. "Le chou" reminds me of one of the first French terms of endearment I learned, ie, "Mon petit chou"! I believe there is also a cute French bulldog that goes by the same name. I did not know about the common French expression and will have to bank that information as I have done with Guille's "You Rock!" Correct me if I'm wrong you San Franciscans out there, but isn't there a French Bistro called "Chouchou"...Been there? Any good? [A keyboardist friend of mine w/flowers in his hair who just moved out to the Bay Area mentioned it].

    Carrie and Anon...great explanation and note of "between a rock and a hard place." An expression of which I am unfortunately more than too familiar. :-)

    Lois...LOL! With your description of the female goat teasing Pan, I now know where the word "goatees" originated. [Now that's BAAAAAHHHDDD!] ;-)

    Soosha...I feel so NOT worthy of your flirtations, but I will gladly be the recipient of them anytime. ;-)

  13. Coltrane, Yes, I have been to Chouchou. One of the owners is Olivier, the same owner of Cafe Bastille. He owns about seven French restaurants (last count) here in San Francisco.

  14. are fortunate to be surrounded by so many French restaurants. We have two French bakeries in my little Midwestern villa strangiato, and I frequent them often. But alas, no French restaurants.

  15. I think the cabbage looks real, too, mon petit chou.

    I like that expression, Coltrane. I'm keeping it.

  16. "Between a rock and a hard place" may be about the closest we can come, but it isn't exactly it. It indicates being in a difficult situation, one in which both options are bad, a tight spot.

    Then there's always, "You can please some of the people all of the time, and...."

  17. I agree with the commenters, I think you have the wrong translation Eric (having your cake and eating it too doesn't work), but I can't think of anything that does works with "la chevre et le chou." Between a rock and a hard place is pretty close, but it's not quite it either. Any politicians around? They know exactly how to manage "the goat and the cabbage"

  18. Hey, I forgot to say -- happy GF Guille!

    Thib - your French phrase sounds spot on for an equivalent. And I think mk is right, trying to please 2 people who want different things may leave you between a rock and a hard place, but it doesn't describe the relationship.

    I do like the phrase mk started so I'll spell it out for our French friends. (Its so long tho that people don't use except in an abbreviated form like mk does.) It is: "You can please some of the people all of the time, and you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time." I can't remember who said this - a politician or Will Rogers maybe?.

    What I still don't understand is how the cabbage and the goat represent people who want 2 different things!

  19. I agree with Lois that the pink and green make for a nice color combo with the sweet-faced white chèvre.

    My French idioms book translates "ménager la chèvre et le chou" as meaning "to play both ends against the middle; to sit on the fence." Their sample sentence is "Il veut ménager la chèvre et le chou, plutôt que de donner son avis" ("he'd rather sit on the fence than give his opinion"). Not sure if that helps, or just muddies the waters!

    The book also says "dans les choux" means to be "in a fix" and "faire chou blanc" means to draw a blank. Who knew cabbage could be so interesting!

  20. Beautiful! The pedestrian in the background balances the image perfectly. Cheers!

  21. Since we're speaking of cabbage, I'll throw it back to Mark Twain who said a "cauliflower is nothing but a cabbage with a College Education." I wish I would have said that! ;-)

  22. You guys are right--between a rock and a hard place isn't exactly right, but I cannot think of the English phrase that is. This discussion has gotten me thinking of other colorful English (or rather American) sayings that Guille might like. I lived in Texas for several years, and those Texans have some great ones. "All hat and no cattle" for someone who pretends to be something he is not. "Dumb as a box of rocks" for a seriously stupid person. "Half a bubble off plumb" to describe a crazy. "That dog won't hunt" meaning something is wrong, or won't work. Guille and Eric, keep us up to date with French idioms. I wish my French was one tenth as good as your English.

  23. Oh, and I forgot one of my favorites. "Up to my a** in alligators" meaning really busy. That is the standard response to "What are you up to?" at my office.

  24. Oh, I love it!! I just wish I knew how to pronounce it! I can see myself calling my kids "la petit chou" ALL the time. So funny.

    Eric, how did you know that this is my favorite color combination? I love, love the picture. So crisp and bold in the colors and goats are always funny, I think.

    PS -- Will someone tell me how to pronounce "chou"? Pretty please?

  25. Poor dear, must not like the chain around its neck very much. At least I'm guessing that's why it's crying.

    coltrane: aaaaaah. That is all.

    Poor Eric, everyone correcting him. I like the alligator phrase the best, personally. Getting stuck in situations where I'm trying to please everyone happens to me all too often because I feel like a failure when I can't please everyone, so I may have to start saying this...assuming I can pronounce it!!!

    My head is killing me. And I'm shakie. And in a rather blue mood. I really wish I knew what's going on with my body, because it isn't pleasant. Not even spending waaaay too much on autumn decor has made me feel any better. Heck, not even PDP or coltrane's wink emote is helping!!! :o(

  26. Christie, I would say "shoe shoe" like in the one we put on our feet.

    Coltrane, BTW "Chouchou" makes a different cassoulet every day. And on the weekends, people pop in to buy tarts freshly made.

    Olivier is opening a French pastry shop soon -- wait, I think it's opened now. I was at Cafe Bastille on Saturday afternoon and had SALADE DE CHEVRE with Baby Greens, Roasted Walnuts And Dijon Vinaigrette.

  27. Oh, here is what Olivier said, "Chouchou"
    (pronounce shooshoo)
    comes from the term "mon petit chou" literally translated as "my little cabbage", but actually means "cutie pie!"

  28. Looks so real! What an interesting conversation piece.

  29. Here's another one of Olivier's restaurants Garcon!
    I don't think Guille would like Garcon! It's a 20 - 30 something crowd -- fashion cafe -- as you can see by the photos.

    There are other people who own French restaurants in San Francisco -- My X likes Cafe Claude.

  30. "To have your cake and eat it, too" means you get to eat the cake, but it doesn't go away when you eat it, so you still have it. I've always thought it's a strange, somewhat grammatically outdated expression. Sort of like "waste not, want not". Now, that will get Notre Reine scratching her head. (There's another one!) Sorry, my dear, but we still owe you for your picnic film saying, which nobody ever explained to this dumb American!

  31. What a striking photo! It would make a great card or art print.
    And it's so interesting to read the various translations of the meaning of "la chevre et le chou" by all of you.

  32.'re killing me with all the "cassoulet every day" French food talk. I do hope you know that. Where's Rachel Ray when I need her?
    Soosha...I do hope you are able to shake those blues...truly. BIG HAPPY FACE HERE :-)

  33. That quote about "pleasing all of the people" is from Abraham Lincoln, but it's actually: "You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time."
    I've learned so many great French expressions that I didn't know in the past couple of days! Thanks all.
    I love this photo, Eric. The goat looks strange, because it appears they didn't give it goat eyes—they look more like human eyes.
    Alors, mes choux, je vais faire dodo—mais pas de metro ni de boulot demain. Paris Plage may be history, but I'm going to the beach. (For the first time this summer—pitiful.)

  34. Big happy face? Wha? Unfortunately my headache has gotten worse. I probably need sleep, which I will be hopefully getting soon. In the meantime I'm also rather bored so I'm gonna keep guessing until either I get it or run out of places to guess. Bloomington?

  35. Oh, et Guille -- tu dechires! (sorry, je n'arrive pas a faire des accents.)

  36. Justine, I don't think the people are afraid that someone will steal their goat, but if I was the owner it might "really get my goat" if someone took it away.

    I'll leave it to the experts to give the equivalent expression in French.

  37. Hey, this is fun. I'm learning a lot today (and it's only 6:27am)!

  38. Hey Alexa - thanks for the correction and the attribution. Its better with fool! Since I'm feeling cynical today, I'll say that only a politician would feel the need to comment on the liklihood of success in this endeavor!! (Well, maybe there are a few other select groups that might try, but what the hey, to use another Americanism.) I'm loving all these phrases. : )

  39. Soosha, you take care of yourself. Doesn't sound good.

    I think the cake phrase was originally "Eat your cake and have it, too," which makes more sense if you think about it. You've eaten it, and you still have it to eat. It's an impossible wish.

    Eric, post something controversial and we'll talk all night. But do you think it matters? Go ahead, post cabbage and a cute little goat. We'll keep talking.

  40. Woohoo! Petrea, I finally made it past the hoochie mamas and got to see you!! How cool & may I say - tu dechires!!

  41. Merci, Carrie. Un mot nouveau pour moi. I ripped?

  42. LOL Petrea! (as usual!)

    But I think Eric... il lui a raconté cette histoire entre la poire et le fromage.

  43. Petrea, "Eat your cake and have it, too," which makes more sense if you think about it. You've eaten it, and you still have it to eat. It's an impossible wish." You explained that perfectly.

    "Eric, post something controversial and we'll talk all night. But do you think it matters? Go ahead, post cabbage and a cute little goat. We'll keep talking." So true. As Alexa said, "....pitiful...".

    Although, as I have been telling you, I am reading "Lost Illusions" and Balzac is describing the group that met at Daniel d'Arthez's (one of the greatest writers of the age). Here is a quote from the book, " was infinitely pleasant to be one of that elect society.... Familiarity did not diminish the sense that each one had of his own value, and each felt the deepest respect for the others;.... Discussions were full of charm, and never boring; they ranged over a wide variety of subjects. Light as arrows, their words sped to the heart of things.... They discudssed the work they were doing, and consulted one another with the delightful openess.... Nearly all of them were kindly and tolerant, two qualities that bore witness to their superiority."

    So let's talk cabbage and chouchou!

  44. Soosha, I get really bad headaches too. For several years I did not know the cause. I would take asprin or tylenol and the headache wouldn't go away. I was telling a friend about it once, and he said it sounded like an alergy headache. He was right. I know people who get headaches if they don't eat. Take care, bisous

  45. When I first saw this photo, I thought the goat might be real. I agree that the sweet eyes are quite endearing. And I love the colors in the photo!

    What fun to read all the talk about expressions. And Coltrane, I certainly prefer "mon petit chou" to another French term of endearment, "ma puce." Who would want to be someone's flea?!?

  46. Whaaa so much things to say! You were so talkative, "on n'est pas sortis de l'auberge"!!

    Jeff, the pic nic saying was " il faut tourner sa langue dans sa bouche avant de parler", it means that you have to think before speaking (that I don't do often).

    I agree with Thib, "To have one's cake and eat it too " is the English saying for "vouloir le beurre, l'argent du beurre et le sourire (ou les faveurs!) de la crémière". Or at least it the most close.

    Anonyme, I like your sayings! "All hat and no cattle" has an equivalent in French, I'm sure of it but can't find it right now. Anyway, in rude brat slang you can say "que de la gueule!" (Just a big mouth/talk, nothing more).

    "Robbing Peter to pay Paul", here, quite the same: "déshabiller Pierre pour habiller Paul". Yes, you noticed that in French it's about necked people!

    Michael, "entre la poire et le fromage", right? I'm "mi-figue mi-raisin" about this one, to stay in the food register.
    ("entre la poire et le raisin": at the end of the meal, the comments are lighter.; "mi-figue mi-raisin": satisfied and unhappy in the same time).

    Alexa, tu déchires! ;)

    Katie, "to sit on the fence", that's exactly what I found too. High five!

    In one word Eric, "dans quel guêpier nous as-tu fourrés!"... :)
    I love this discussion.

  47. I forgot:" " il faut tourner sa langue SEPT FOIS dans sa bouche avant de parler"... I didn't, once again. LOL

  48. I wanted to add that "je voud ai donné du fil à retordre", ou "du blé à moudre"! (It means that I keep you busy). Okay, it's over. I stop it. :)

  49. Is'nt this taking the concept of 'fresh meat' on the menu a bit far?


  50. According to my research,it normally a justification for someone who's perceived as wanting more value then what others think they deserve. it was first used in 1546 by John Heywood.

  51. I thought it was named after a "fable de La Fontaine".

  52. Ooooh this is interesting, Eric. You know how i love language. To please two opposite parties...hmm. Not sure i can think of an English phrase to suit. We'd say we're 'stuck in the middle' or 'between the devil and the deep' perhaps, but i don't think there's anything quite so specific.

    To have one's cake and eat it isn't right either, it means to attempt to achieve two selfish aims. Imagine someone perhaps who demands that his/her partner is faithful, yet thinks it perfectly fine to have other lovers him/herself. It's almost about double standards. You'd say to this lover "oh you just want to have your cake and eat it!"
    If i think of a better analogy, i'll be back! That cabbage is making me hungry.

  53. Anyway, 'you can please all of the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time'.

  54. In greek we say "to have both the dog and the pie full"...

  55. I know this doesn't quite fit, but when I was a child and we spoke at dinner time, my mother would say "Every time a sheep baa's it loses a bite"

  56. >>"All hat and no cattle"<<

    The people from Newcastle-on-Tyne, known as "Geordies", have some salty expressions. Their equivalent of that Texanism is "all fur coat and nae knickers".

  57. "Ménager la chèvre et le chou"means
    "to not take part in someone or something and wait"with caution or with interest or with fear etc....
    And what about: "entrer dans le chou" "faire chou blanc" ;"faire ses choux gras" ;"aller planter ses choux" ;"être bète comme chou"
    ;to write a"feuille de chou"?...

    For me, I only learnt: "les garçons sont nés dans les choux et les filles sont nées dans les roses"!!!

  58. Anonyme,

    -Faire chou blanc: to draw a blank.
    -Rentrer dans le chou: to get worked up against somebody.
    -Faire ses choux gras: to profit from something.
    -Aller planter ses choux: to retire in the countryside.
    -Etre bête comme chou (more "c'est bête comme chou"): the most simple thing ever!
    -Une feuille de chou: a newspaper of bad quality

    Eric or Tomate, you're the two people able to say if I'm right..!

  59. This goat is soooo cute ;)
    Great post as usual and what to say about most of the comments!!! So clever! So funny!! May I tell you all "Bravo" before someone else does it!!!!!

  60. Eric - loveley composition. That goat is adorable. Mon petit chou is one of my favorite French expressions. Enjoyed the commentary by everyone.

  61. Oooh I hate it when my comments don't got through and I have to remember what I said!

    Thanks for your concern folks. I don't know what was going on but I suppose it could have been an allergy headache. I did eat something new yesterday!

    guille, you must be in it to win if if you're gonna pay that much for me (on Owned)! I'm not worth all that. Although I'm rather upset that you've got Michael. I'll never be able to afford him again!!!

    Coltrane, Bloomington/Normal? (Just gonna randomly guess until I either run out of places or I get it right. And only cause you're a neighbor. No other reason, I swear!)

  62. Soosha...glad you're feeling better. As a migraine sufferer (or as a MIGRAINE...take your pick),I truly can relate. My problem intensifies when I don't get adequate sleep, when I don't exercise, when a low pressure system is hovering in the area, when Bush opens his mouth, or if I eat food laden with MSG or dyes. Yeah, I am one BIG headache. As for my locale, I'm 3 hours from Kansas's that?

  63. When Bush opens his mouth. ROFL! Yeah, me too!

  64. Kim. "Eric! It reminds me to finish up at dinner tonight the little bit of chevre cheese I bought from the farmers market." Hey, that's a good idea ;) I did not think of that...

    I think "between a rock and a hard place" would translate as "entre la peste et le cholera" which means : it's like choosing between plague and Cholera"

    Yes, true Coltrane and Petrea "Mon petit chou" (my little cabbage!) is a cute little expression, that we use quite a lot, especially with children ;)

    Wow Katie, so many expressions with cabbage. I too never realized how extensively we use "cabbage" in French LOL

    Thank you snapper. I love the pedestrian presence too.

    Christie "Eric, how did you know that this is my favorite color combination? I love, love the picture. So crisp and bold in the colors and goats are always funny, I think." I'm a psychic!

    Soosha "Poor Eric, everyone correcting him." It's OK! ;) I knew the translation was not perfect but that is the only one I found close enough.

    Lois "I don't think Guille would like Garcon! It's a 20 - 30 something crowd -- fashion cafe -- as you can see by the photos." LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!

    Bonne plage Alexa ;) Enjoy ;)

    Michael "But I think Eric... il lui a raconté cette histoire entre la poire et le fromage." LOOOOOOL! Excellent.

    Guille you crack me up! You're a true phrases encyclopidia!

    Hey Lynn, why don't you ask the Benauts?!

    Greek Anonymous ""to have both the dog and the pie full""?? That's also "avir le beurre et l'argent du beurre" I think.

    Navrad "Every time a sheep baa's it loses a bite"" Excellent. Now try this at Mc Donald's nowadays...

    Guille "Eric or Tomate, you're the two people able to say if I'm right..!" Yes you are right!

    Merci Corinne ;)

  65. This comment has been removed by the author.

  66. "Ménager la chèvre et le chou" means "to not take part in someone or something and wait"

    No, no, sorry Anonyme, that isn't quite it! It's not entirely wrong but it's not quite right either ;) You know, it is quite possible there isn't an English equivalent, at least not an idiom!

    My interpretation of "Ménager la chèvre et le chou" or at least the closest I can come to it is " mediating between 2 parties." but you know, mediating implies that you remain neutral, whereas the French expression I believe means that you have an interest in both parties.



  67. You know, there is only one thing left to do... look that up in the dictionary!

    (ok, that one was for GG!)

  68. Merci, Merci, Merci!! Thanks so much. I love calling my little Cutie Pie of a girl, "Mon petit chou". It is so fun. (Although she doesn't like the cabbage reference! :)

  69. I just might, Eric! I just know there'll be an interesting Australian saying they can come up with.

  70. Gille, Many thanks for the translations.
    Tomate,Many thanks for the explanation.
    Eric,Many thanks for the fun and to have to"chercher la petite bête"