Entre chien et loup and other French animal expressions

French animal protection association SPA is advocating for the appointment of an Animal Rights’ Defender. We look at three French expressions related to dogs…

28 October 2021

Learn French words and expressions you may hear in the news today Pic: The Connexion

France's main animal protection society is calling for the establishment of a new state-appointed official - an Animal Rights’ Defender.

SPA (Société Protectrice des Animaux) President Jacques-Charles Fombonne told Le Monde that the position should be appointed by the president for a single term and that the chosen official should have administrative powers. 

The role would be similar to that of Claire Hédon, who was appointed the Defender of (human) Rights last year.

The idea of an Animal Rights’ Defender position was first raised in 2019 by former Minister of Justice Robert Badinter, the driving force behind the ending of capital punishment in France. 

Now, Jacques-Charles Fombonne wants to take advantage of the 2022 presidential election to advance the cause, arguing that 2% to 3% of voters will probably decide how to vote on the basis of this topic.

As a link with this cause, we look at three French expressions inspired by dogs:

Entre chien et loup (literally ‘between dog and wolf’):

This expression refers to the time of dusk, when it is “too dark to distinguish between a dog and a wolf”. 

It is attributed to the 13th century but is said to be much older, deriving from the Latin ‘inter canem et lupum’. Here, the dog, trustworthy and warm, represents the day. The wolf, menacing and unknown, represents the night.

Dormir en chien de fusil (literally ‘to sleep like the dog of a rifle’):

This expression relates to a sleeping position – on the side, with the legs brought up towards the chin. An English equivalent might be ‘the foetal position’.

In French, ‘chien’ has two meanings – dog and a metal part of a firearm which is pressed before pulling the trigger.

The expression could either be inspired by the animal, which tends to sleep on its side, or the ‘chien’ of the rifle, which resembles the sleeping position. 

Se regarder en chien de faïence (literally ‘to look at each other like dogs made of glazed pottery’):

This expression means to look at each other with suspension or mistrust.

Faïence is a term for tin-glazed pottery, named after the city of Faenza, Italy, where the technique was popularised in the 16th century.

In France, these earthenware decorations, in particular in the form of dogs, were placed on either side of fireplaces. The ‘dogs’ would appear to be staring at each other, as if suspicious of one another, which inspired the expression.

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