Marché de dupes: A French expression you may hear today

Australia has backed out of a multi-billion euro deal with France. We look at some expressions you may hear in the news as a result.

20 September 2021

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

Following last week’s announcement that Australia will be backing out of its €56billion submarine deal with France in favour of a partnership with the US, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday defended the move.

Read more: France puts back talks despite Johnson’s UK ‘love’ vow amid Aukus row

The decision to break the contract has triggered a diplomatic crisis between Paris, Canberra and Washington, with French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian recalling French ambassadors to Australia and the US for consultations.

You may hear commentators questioning whether the deal was a marché de dupes. We explain what this means…

Translated to ‘fool’s market’, a ‘marché de dupes’ describes a deal in which one party is taken advantage of or cheated.

The verb ‘duper’ is a synonym of ‘tromper’” (‘to cheat’). Therefore, a ‘dupe’ is somebody who is credulous or easy to fool.

Some might argue that Australia’s unexpected decision to opt for American nuclear submarines despite signing a contract with the French Naval Group in 2016 makes the deal a ‘fool’s bargain’.

Another expression that you may hear is ‘changer un cheval borgne contre un aveugle’. 

This phrase translates to ‘exchange a one-eyed horse for a blind one’ and is used to refer to situations in which the original bad solution is discarded for a new, worse one, bringing catastrophic consequences.

This saying originates from peasantry, when horses were used very commonly to work the fields.

It is said to have been coined by Adrien de Montluc-Montesquiou, a French nobleman and writer.

Another idiom that could be used to describe Australia’s actions is ‘changer son fusil d’épaule’ (‘to change gun shoulder’). This phrase means to ‘change opinion’ and was coined in the military in the 19th century.

As a gun is a soldier’s most important possession, a soldier changing his gun shoulder would be quite surprising. Therefore, the phrase has evolved to refer to a rather drastic or shocking change of opinion.

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