Very minor question: I'm used to "à peine" translating as "barely, hardly, only just". At least to my ears, those translations all have the connotation that not only is something "small", it's "even smaller than you might have thought". Whereas phrases like "a bit, a little" are more ambiguous: saying that something is "a bit interesting" might convey that it's "barely, hardly" interesting, but it might also convey that "actually, it is kind of interesting". E.g. I hope you find this distinction a bit interesting, not hardly interesting :)

I'm reading Foucault's "Histoire de la sexualité I", and he writes the phrase "... les pratiques, à peine louches, de la sexologie." The English translation renders that as "the barely equivocal practices of sexology", which makes no sense to me--I can't fathom what it would mean to be "barely" equivocal.

Would it make sense to translate "à peine louche" as "somewhat, a bit, a little sketchy"? I also found this example https://twitter.com/dascritch/status/733328499726012417, which seems to have a similar sense.

  • 1
    It's used in a sarcastic way. "Officially" it's not "louches", but if we dig up a little, it's clearly "louches".
    – Larme
    Jul 4, 2016 at 13:52

3 Answers 3


In this case « à peine » is an euphemism, original french sentence would be

.. les pratiques, très louches, de la sexologie ...


.. les pratiques, douteuses, de la sexologie ...

which I would translate as

..., a bit fishy, practices of sexology ...

or "a bit dubious", "somehow unacademic".


Il s'agit d'une ironie, et l'auteur veut ici faire comprendre exactement l'inverse de ce qu'il a écrit (définition de l'ironie).

Votre traduction est donc exacte, l'interprétation restait à faire.

"... les pratiques, à peine louches, de la sexologie."

est justement traduit par

"... the barely strange customs ..."

mais signifie en réalité

"... the really strange customs ..."


I would say that the best translation would be:

"... the only just a tiny bit shady customs..."

which, at least to me, would convey the same ironic usage, especially if the rest of the context helps out (ie. if some truly questionable things were mentioned earlier).

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