Rester en carafe: A French expression you may hear today

Doctors who refuse to get vaccinated against Covid are accused of leaving their patients ‘in a carafe’. We look at what this means...

14 October 2021

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

All doctors will need to be fully-vaccinated against Covid from tomorrow Friday October 15 in order to be able to continue to work.

Since mid-September, doctors have had to prove that they have had at least one dose of the vaccine in order to continue to practise. Tomorrow, this will change to two.

Almost 10% (9.9%) of healthcare workers in health facilities and 4.5% of professionals in private practices had not received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine on September 21, according to the latest figures available from France’s health agency Santé publique France.

The figures represent a significant portion of the healthcare industry, meaning thousands of patients will be left at a loss and vaccinated healthcare workers under strain from the added workload.

The unvaccinated doctors are accused of leaving their patients ‘en carafe’.

To ‘rester en carafe’ (literally ‘to stay in the carafe or jug’) means to be left stranded, often out of nowhere. An English equivalent might be ‘to be left high and dry’ or ‘to be left in the lurch’. You may also come across the variation ‘tomber en carafe’ - ‘to fall into the carafe’.

This expression was coined around the end of the 19th century.

Most sources claim that it derives from slang, where the word ‘carafe’ was used to refer to the mouth. Indeed, the open mouth has long been a symbol for a loss for words.

It expresses a state of shock and, by extension in this expression, also abandonment. 

Another theory is that the expression relates to the container itself - if one were to be placed inside a carafe, they would be completely isolated, with no way out.

A similar expression is ‘se retrouver le bec dans l’eau’ - ‘to find yourself with your beak in the water’.

It has various interpretations, including: to be stuck in a difficult situation; to not achieve something that you wanted to; to not know what to say.

In the 16th century, the phrase ‘tenir le bec dans l’eau’ (literally ‘to hold someone’s beak in the water’) was used in reference to unkept promises. It is said that here, the beak was a metaphor for the mouth, and the water for saliva.

Holding someone’s beak in the water meant making them ‘salivate’ at the idea of something, only to not keep the promise.

In the 19th century, the expression ‘se retrouver le bec dans l’eau’ was coined and is now used more generally to refer to difficult or disappointing situations.

Read more

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