Montrer patte blanche: A French expression you may hear today

The French health pass will be used in restaurants, cafes and bars from today and one press report refers to how customers will need to montrer patte blanche. What does it mean?

9 August 2021

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

Word-for-word, montrer patte blanche means to show the white paw.

So, what is the link with Covid-19 health rules?

From today (August 9) people in France will need to use a health pass to go to restaurants, bars, cafes, hospitals, some large shopping centres and for long-distance travel within France.

This is in addition to already needing to use the health pass to enter gyms, cinemas, theatres, places or worship and other public spaces.

The health pass is proof that the bearer has had a negative Covid test result in the previous 48 hours, has been fully vaccinated against Covid or has already had the virus and is considered immune.

Read more: France extends health pass today, new rules for residents and tourists

In other words, people wanting to go for a meal or to see a film will now have to show ‘they can be trusted,’ or montrer patte blanche, before they are allowed inside an establishment.

The expression comes from the French fable The Wolf, The Goat and The Kid, written by Jean de La Fontaine in 1668.

In the story a mother goat leaves her baby goat at home alone, and tells him not to answer the door unless he can see through the window that the caller has a white paw, or hoof, like her own.

When the wolf comes calling, the baby goat asks it to montrer patte blanche. When the wolf cannot, the baby goat does not let the wolf in and stays safe.

Another version of the story written by the Brothers Grimm has a less positive outcome. In their telling the clever wolf dips his paw in flour to colour it white, and tricks its way inside to eat the baby goat.

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