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Mais fallait-il vraiment taper si fort?

Literally, taper [si] fort could be translated into English as hitting / knocking that hard. But idiomatically, should taper [si] fort be indeed an idiomatic expression, it should mean something like to exaggerate / to make too much of (something). Thus, the question should be rendered in English as Was it really necessary for us to exaggerate so much?

Am I correct or not?

A fuller context of this:

Mais vous, vous avez bien failli élire le premier pour une quatrième fois (il s'en est fallu de 150 000 voix à la Chambre), vous avez éliminé l'économiste qui, il est vrai, vous avait assommés d'impôts, et vous avez probablement empêché le social-démocrate de devenir un jour président du conseil. En donnant 8,5 millions de suffrages à l'ex-comique et en lui permettant de bloquer le Sénat, donc le pays, vous avez fait sauter la banque.

(…) Ces experts ont écouté vos plaintes sur la corruption, sur la “caste des élus” et ses privilèges. (…) J’ai perçu le malaise. Mais fallait-il vraiment taper si fort?

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"frapper fort" is an idiomatic expression which mean "do something big (that will have a big impact)". "tapper fort" is much less common... –  oli Jul 16 '13 at 1:23

2 Answers 2

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Taper fort isn't really an idiom, it is a natural derivation from an abstract meaning of taper. Taper means to hit, as does frapper, but there are different nuances in these two words. Taper fort is “hit hard” (subject to nuances), “taper si fort” is “hit so hard”.

In the context of a speech, taper sur quelqu'un (or sometimes taper sur une idée) means to argue vehemently against a person (or sometimes an idea). It implies that the discourse was not only opposed to this person, but expounded on the opposition at some length, possibly with exaggeration. There is however no implication of violence, dishonesty or inappropriate speech.

Taper fort insists on the way the idea was conveyed, not just on the idea itself. The author of the passage you cite implicitly concedes that he agrees with the core issue (that the “plaintes sur la corruption …” are founded), but disagrees that the speaker should have been so vehement in their expression.

To expand a bit more on the context: the author is addressing the Italian people after Italian elections. The means of expression was the votes in the election. The author agrees with the Italians' discontent but disapproves of the extent to which they voted against the parties who were in power.

Here taper takes on another meaning, which is to hit something precisely. For example, taper dans le mille means to hit a target dead center (in the small central circle that awards 1000 points). The Italians have “tapé sur” the traditional political parties — they reduced these parties' power. Frapper sur would not work as it implies physical violence. (Frapper sur can also imply a physical act without violence, as in “frapper du poing sur la table” — hit the table with one's fist to attract attention, often used metaphorically. But if a target is designated, frapper sur implies a physical act against the target.)

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Look for occurrences of “ils ont frappé fort”, I bet 95% of them don't refer to any kind of physical violence. It's used figuratively. Taper fort is then a mix of taper sur and this figurative use found in frapper fort. –  Stéphane Gimenez Jul 14 '13 at 15:02
    
@StéphaneGimenez « Frappé fort », oui. Mais pas « frappé sur … ». Ici, le contexte implique que les Italiens ont tapé sur la gauche et le centre en votant Grillo (il faut regarder un peu plus que la partie de l'article citée dans la question pour comprendre). –  Gilles Jul 14 '13 at 15:08
    
Merci beaucoup pour votre réponse. –  indoxica Jul 14 '13 at 15:08
    
@Gilles So taper sur qn means to run sb down; or to criticize, doesn't it? –  indoxica Jul 14 '13 at 15:11
    
@indoxica It's more than criticize. Run down is close, but taper sur is a bit more general: you can use taper sur without running the person into the ground, if you're arguing vehemently about one specific idea. –  Gilles Jul 14 '13 at 15:15

Your context is not long enough for me to be sure, as the proper idiomatic expression is "frapper fort". Moreover "Mais fallait-il vraiment taper si fort?" is questioning if the reaction is exaggerated or not, whereas your English translation states that it is and questions the necessity. The difference is subtle but your translation is assertive (I would say "péremptoire" in French), whereas it is finely-shaded in French. Maybe something like “Didn't you overreact?” (as suggested by Stéphane Gimenez) is closer to the author's feelings.

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So I was pretty close to saying it like it is, wasn't I? –  indoxica Jul 12 '13 at 9:23
    
Yes indeed you've understood correctly the meaning, I just find your translation a bit harsh. I always tend to quibble about French :) –  FredericS Jul 12 '13 at 9:32
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I also lack some more context, but it seems to me that the question is actually “fallait-il que vous tapiez si fort ?”, which I would render in English as “didn't you overreact?”. (Notice the negative.) –  Stéphane Gimenez Jul 12 '13 at 9:43
    
Indeed Stéphane, you translation seems much better. Editing. –  FredericS Jul 12 '13 at 10:02
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@indoxica: “frapper fort” is kind of semi-idiomatic, it's most often used with a figurative meaning (nothing was actually hit, but it looks like it). Adding a “si” is a natural extension that follows standard grammatical rules. (Just like “hit so hard” can be obtained from “hit hard”.) –  Stéphane Gimenez Jul 12 '13 at 14:38

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