Take the 2-minute tour ×
French Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the French language. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Yesterday one of my French colleagues said that "Il faut manger moins de fromage que de pain."

I've been googling this French proverb but I couldn't find any deep meaning under this sentence; does anybody know what it means?

PS. I couldn't ask her what she meant because it was a professional e-mail and I'm not close to her out of my professional life.

share|improve this question
    
Can you give some more context? What situation was this used in? –  Brennan Vincent Aug 26 '11 at 18:24
3  
I still think you should ask her, even if you're not very close. She's using a French idiom which you don't understand, it's only fair that she would explain. I don't see any reason not to ask, and it can be done politely enough. Something along the lines of "Sorry, French is not my native language and I am not familiar with that expression. As I am afraid I may misinterpret what you mean with it, would you care to explain it to me, and what you meant by it in the context of your e-mail?". No reason it should offend her in any way. –  Joubarc Aug 29 '11 at 12:56
add comment

5 Answers

I have heard this used in relation to people that spend their life chasing luxury items or cool exciting technology (I'm a programmer), keeping up with the Jones's as it were. A reference to a more Buddhist way of life where one should pay more attention to the simple things in life and less attention to luxuries. No amount of luxuries will fill a hole in your heart. The simplest things in life are the ones which will bring true happiness.

I can't speak to the context in which it was used, proverbially speaking it would have been related to what you were discussing, or some manner that she perceived of you.

I would wager that you did or said something where she perceived you were chasing costly details (luxuries) that she considered less important in the grand scheme of things - the cheese, where you should have been concentrating on the 'low hanging fruit', those things which are quickly, cheaply and easily fixed and give the greatest return on your investment - the bread.

share|improve this answer
    
+1 for plausibility! –  Benjol Aug 27 '11 at 7:52
    
See also cl-r's answer for a French version of the same idea (imho better an answer, for the contents part). +1 for featuring Buddhism, and for the most reasonnable idea explaining it, though. –  Nikana Reklawyks Dec 13 '12 at 18:04
add comment

I don't think it's a proverb at all. (Edit: or is it?) (Edit: ok, maybe it is. I've never heard of it.)

It means "One should eat less cheese than bread" but I suppose you figured that part out already.

share|improve this answer
    
I know its straight meaning...no problem at that point...She said this sentence in a non-related topic.If you google it, you will see that it's a French proverbe... Look at this : environnement.ecole.free.fr/… –  NT01 Aug 26 '11 at 17:22
    
Yeah, just noticed. Ok, I'll just let someone who actually has a clue give a wiser answer while I get downvoted to oblivion. (But if I had to venture a guess I'd say it has to do with cheese being a delicacy and people should not treat it the same way as bread, which is, well, just bread. Probably originated at a time when cheese was somehow expensive) –  Joubarc Aug 26 '11 at 17:30
    
One stupid question though: did you ask your colleague? Don't forget to mention this site to her, too. –  Joubarc Aug 26 '11 at 17:31
1  
A good opportunity to get closer :-) Anyway, I do hope there will be a good answer here (I noticed you posted the same question elsewhere too)[forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=2228380], if you get a good answer there before, don't hesitate to tell us :-) –  Joubarc Aug 26 '11 at 17:35
2  
BTW: You need to lose the 'to' between should and eat. –  Benjol Aug 26 '11 at 18:24
show 4 more comments
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Bonjour à tous, finalement, lors d'une réunion, j'ai demandé à la femme de m'expliquer sa phrase. Elle est Portugaise, et au Portugal, elle m'explique qu'ils croient que le fromage est mauvais pour la mémoire. Elle avait oublié de faire quelque chose, donc maintenant, c'est clair pour moi aussi :)

share|improve this answer
1  
Une blague qui mêle une expression française (au sens peu évident) avec une croyance portugaise ?! Le véritable sens de cette expression n'est pas sons sens premier, et surtout pas avec cette connotation :-). Mais merci d'avoir raconté la fin de l'histoire ! En revanche je pense que le check mark doit revenir à la très bonne réponse formulée par Ben. –  Stéphane Gimenez Jun 25 '12 at 12:23
1  
@StéphaneGimenez Je ne suis pas d'accord avec « le check mark doit revenir à la très bonne réponse formulée par Ben ». La réponse acceptée doit être celle qui a résolu le problème de l'OP, et la réponse de Ben n'était pas exactement ce que la dame voulait dire, ce qui n'enlève rien à sa qualité. –  Kareen Jun 25 '12 at 13:53
    
@Kareen: L'OP se posait très sûrement deux questions sans savoir qu'elles étaient distinctes. Qu'est-ce que ça veut dire en général, et qu'est-ce que ça voulait dire dans ce cas précis. Après à lui de voir ce qui compte le plus… –  Stéphane Gimenez Jun 25 '12 at 14:24
    
Il me semble raisonnable que la coche aille à ce qui résout la question posée. Que plus de visiteurs tirent bénéfice d'une autre réponse, tant mieux, mais c'est plutôt du ressort des votes. (@StéphaneGimenez) Mais effectivement, dommage que le fin mot de l'histoire soit une inside-joke à la communauté franco-portugaise. –  Nikana Reklawyks Dec 13 '12 at 17:56
add comment

Cette expression (valable aussi pour la charcuterie, et le saucisson en particulier) est liée au temps ou le pain constituait quatre-vingt pour cent de la nourriture chez les pauvres, et beaucoup moins chez les bourgeois.

A table, il était de bon ton d'expliquer aux enfants que le fromage ou la charcuterie se mangeaient avec du pain, et que la proportion de ce dernier devait être la plus importante ; qu'il était vulgaire de manger le fromage ou la charcuterie sans pain, que cela faisait parvenu (manger les mets les plus onéreux pour afficher sa richesse, alors que l'équilibre des deux aliments permet de valoriser les saveurs).

C'est devenu un conseil diététique qui conseille de diminuer la part de protéine d'origine animale.

share|improve this answer
    
C'est pas mal ce que je comprends aussi dans cette admirable expression (+1 pour la meilleure réponse, d'après moi), dommage que la langue ne corresponde pas à celle de la question. –  Nikana Reklawyks Dec 13 '12 at 18:03
    
@NikanaReklawyks Je connais mes limites, et malgré d'excellents professeurs, il y incompatibilité structurelle de compréhension, et aussi une incapacité à l'entendre et à la parler correctement. –  cl-r Dec 14 '12 at 7:52
add comment

Just a guess: cheese is very tasty (and expensive), but bread isn't that much. Anyway, one never eats cheese without bread, and cheese being more fat (or maybe more expensive), even if it is better than bread, one should eat less cheese than bread, in order to stay healthy (or wealthy)...

What actually feeds you in bread+cheese is the inexpensive bread.

share|improve this answer
3  
not so tasty! :-/ Je sais bien que de moins en moins de boulangers savent faire du vrai pain mais quand même ! On est sur French Language & Usage, il ne faut pas dénigrer comme ça notre patrimoine ! ;) –  LudoMC Aug 26 '11 at 19:13
    
au temps pour moi :-) –  Smugrik Aug 27 '11 at 7:54
    
In other words, bread is a staple, cheese is a delicacy. –  Joubarc Sep 1 '11 at 9:44
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.