Brivaux avait trafiqué un magnétophone et l’avait accouplé à l’enregistreur du nouveau sondeur. Il obtint une bande magnétique qu’il convia ses camarades à écouter. Ils n’entendirent rien, puis rien, et encore rien.

Y a des clous, sur ton bidule ! grogna Eloi...

Brivaux sourit.

— Tout est dans le silence, dit-il. Vous ne pouvez pas entendre les ultra-sons. Mais ils sont là, je vous le garantis. Pour les entendre, il faudrait un réducteur de fréquence. Je n’en ai pas. Y en a pas à la base. Il faudra aller à Paris.

The English translation simply omits this phrase:

Brivaux had improvised a microphone and connected it with the recording apparatus of the new instrument to produce a tape recording which he played for his colleagues. They heard nothing.

Then Brivaux smiled. "It's all in the silence," he said. "You can't hear ultrasonics. But they are there, I guarantee you that, although we would need a frequency reducer to hear them. I don't have one, and there's none at the base. Someone is going to have to go to Paris."

The German translation makes it about the scientist: »Du hast wohl Nägel im Kopf« (you've got nails in your head!) but my feeling is that the phrase is about the apparatus itself.

  • It is about the apparatus itself. And not only because it would be strange to call the head bidule (French has lots of slang word to call the head), it is the only understanding that makes sense to me.
    – None
    Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 15:29
  • There's no sound at all on your thingy! avoir des clous=to be or have nothing or zero. bidule is thingy or whatchamacallit or thingamajig. It is slang. Yes, it is about the tape recorder i.e. device. I guess the translator was clueless...
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 16:29
  • I checked English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portugese, and Russian translations. All translators were clueless! Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 17:48
  • Yes, "we" are not surprised. People really should avoid literary translation unless they have lived in a country for some number of years. People go to university and study a language and all of a sudden think they can be literary translators....
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 18:38

1 Answer 1


This means:

Il n'y a rien.

There is nothing.

Voir clou.

  • 1
    Oui, avoir des clous c'est ne rien avoir. Mais, le bidule manque.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 16:53

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