This is from Proust:

(Pour Françoise la comparaison d’un homme à un lion, qu’elle prononçait li-on, n’avait rien de flatteur.)

Maybe this has something to do with 'on lit', i.e. 'one reads' but I still don't see why that wouldn't be flattering.

  • Perhaps Lyon, the name of a city. Or lit-on? - but I am not sure whether pronoun on could be used like that in the times of Proust.
    – Roger V.
    Jan 19, 2023 at 7:17
  • Incidentally, if you want a pun on lions, thank the translators of The Lion King who have Scar observe pointedly that "Rebelle et lion font rébellion !"
    – Luke Sawczak
    Jan 19, 2023 at 14:32

1 Answer 1


There is no pun, only a remark about Françoise's mannered pronunciation of lion.

What is unflattering is not her pronunciation but the comparison she makes, and it is unflattering for the men she refers to, the soldiers marching in Combray.

C’est pourtant vrai qu’ils n’y tiennent pas ! Je les ai vus en 70 ; ils n’ont plus peur de la mort, dans ces misérables guerres ; c’est ni plus ni moins des fous ; et puis ils ne valent plus la corde pour les pendre, ce n’est pas des hommes, c’est des lions.

In her mind, to say that a man is a lion is unflattering because a lion is fierce, lacks humanity, and does not value life. The narrator must explain that this comparison is unflattering because usually such a comparison is positive: a lion is strong and powerful.

  • so why is the remark not flattering?
    – bobsmith76
    Jan 19, 2023 at 8:19
  • The narrator's remark about Françoise's pronunciation is relatively neutral. On the other hand, Françoise believes that telling that a man is a lion is unflattering (likely because a lion is wild and cruel) while generally, such comparison is positive (a lion is strong and powerful).
    – jlliagre
    Jan 19, 2023 at 10:21
  • @bobsmith76 more context would be needed to understand Francoise's state of mind, but that pronunciation can sound overly pedantic or scary on purpose. Jan 20, 2023 at 13:43

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