I am translating a few chapters of a French book and wondered whether "come down like a tonne of bricks" would be a good fit for this phrase in French?

The whole sentence is as follows "Nous avons fondu sur le sixième comme une nuée de moineaux piaillants"

edit for context: it is talking about a bully who used to bother the group of girls until this sentence which describes how they stopped him doing so from my understanding.. the next sentence is "Il n'a pas résisté longtemps. Ce jour-là, j'ai appris une chose essentielle: dans un combat, ce n'est pas le plus fort qui l'emporte, mais le plus convaincu."

  • Hi Alice, you do realize that moineaux piaillants actually means: twittering sparrows?? What is the subject of the book? Golf?? Can't imagine, sorry.
    – Lambie
    Jun 2, 2021 at 15:02
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    But here, they actually attacked the guy. It is not metaphorical at all. And the attack was like a bunch of birds, a swarm of twittering sparrows would be very annoying, and even put a stop to someone's bad behavior. A ton of bricks is not used to describe actual physical altercations, and even if it were, it does not translate the idea of the French which is actually described in light, airy terms but ends up putting a stop to the behavior.
    – Lambie
    Jun 2, 2021 at 16:25
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    As it stands the question is asking how to express something in English. On this site you could ask about the meaning of the French expression, if you want to know how to say something in English I suggest you go on ell.stackexchange.com
    – None
    Jun 2, 2021 at 18:16
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    For those who have a good command of English there's english.stackexchange.com but there again you'll have to visit the help section to see how to phrase your question. On french.stackexchange one can on certain conditions ask to check a translation into French but certainly not into English.
    – None
    Jun 3, 2021 at 6:24
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    @XouDo Pour parler du français on peut dire que piaillerie a déjà été utilisé il y a des siècles dans le sens de récriminer aigrement (DHLF). Normalement l'idée de fondre c'est fondre sur sa proie comme l'aigle mais là avec piaillant ça ajoute de l'information sur le cri, donc veut-on insister sur le fait que c'était verbal et non pas se jeter sur quelqu'un pour le rouer de coups, c'pas clair. Jun 3, 2021 at 7:38

1 Answer 1


That does not correspond well, not at all I'd say.

(Cambridge Dictionary) like a ton of bricks very strongly or forcefully:
♦ If Dad finds out what you've been doing, he'll come down on (= punish) you like a ton of bricks!

There is not that idea of force in the expression "moineaux piaillants" but rather that of bustling activity. Moreover the image is not complete and in English a "complete" image will be needed (comme une nuée de moineaux piaillants se jette sur des semences ou des graines qui leur sont jetées).

I can't think of an idiom; as "comme une nuée de moineaux piaillants" is not an idiom either why not use a similar image?

Here are two possibilities.

  • We threw ourselves on the sixth one as a swarm of chirping sparrows on the crumbs on a pavement.

  • We threw ourselves on the sixth one as a swarm of buzzing bees onto an intruder.

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    – Tsundoku
    Jun 3, 2021 at 20:32

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