Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Squeeze Right


'Keep Right'.
This sign has always amused me. In this context it just means 'keep right', and probably has the nuance that there is a sharp right hand turn coming up plus it's a tight squeeze if there are two cars travelling in opposite directions.

There is good reason for the sign. When driving you approach this spot on the wrong side of the road because there is always a row of cars parked on the right and the street is not wide enough for three cars across. If there are two cars travelling in opposite directions, one of them has to give way. The sign reminds you to get over into your own lane as soon as possible. The chances of meeting the bus, a tractor, a truck or just some inattentive car driver straddling the white line and coming the other way around the corner are fairly high. 

The reason I am amused, in a sort of silly adolescent way, is that the verb 'serrer' has many meanings, depending on context. It could be 'to grip', 'to hold tight', 'to hug', 'to shake' ('serrer la main de qn' - 'to shake the hand of sb'), 'to squeeze', 'to clench' ('serrer les dents' - 'to clench one's teeth'), 'to tighten', 'to be tight' ('ce pantalon me serre trop' - 'these trousers are too tight for me'), 'to close up' ('serrer les rangs' - 'to close ranks').

10 comments:

  1. At the table, you might ask somebody you say tu to if he or she wants a serving of, say, fried potatoes (Prends-tu des frites ?) The person answers: Oui, sers-moi... mais pas trop fort. It a pun.

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  2. I have always mentally translated this instruction as...
    "Lock your car to the right"...
    Ie: virtually rub the wheelrims on the kerb!!

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    1. Yes, same root word, so that works.

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  3. It means also to put away in a safe place.

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  4. There are also the expressions serrer les coudes and serrer les fesses.

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    1. Yep, both good ones, and we'll need to be doing both of them in the coming year.

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  5. >>Oui, sers-moi... mais pas trop fort.<<

    That's like so many coy Victorian puns* in English, and the signs one used to see over the tomatoes in an old-fashioned greengrocer's: "Please don't squeeze me till I'm yours".

    *My mother was particularly fond of "May I press you to a slice of ham?"

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    1. LOL. But that greengrocer's one can't be accurate -- you've put all the apostrophes in the right places!

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