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First Item in the Bazaar: a French Idiom!

Our idiom today is:

Il n’y a pas le feu au lac”

“No need to rush”


Growing up in Southern France I would hear that idiom a lot.

Why Southern France? Because that’s where things go slowly. That’s where the turtle is considered one of the fastest animals…that’s where you take the time to enjoy every minute of your free time while doing pretty much nothing. That’s where impatient Parisians are driven crazy.


See? I am from Southern France and it takes me forever to get to the point here!


But wait…What does “Il n’y pas le feu au lac” mean exactly?


It literally means “The lake is not on fire”, which I find to be a very clever way to say “No need to rush”. Don’t you think it’s clever? I wonder who came up with that one. Someone clever. “The lake is not on fire” implies that there is no emergency, no reason to rush since the lake is not and will NEVER set on fire. You get the idea.


In which context should you use this idiom?


Well, you generally say “Il n’y a pas le feu au lac” when you feel rushed or pushed by someone. It’s a way to let this person know that he or she is being impatient without a good reason. You are telling this person “Slow down, slow down.”


The first time I heard this come out of my father’s mouth, I replied: “Which lake?”

I was not being clever or ironic. I was four.