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Un de perdu dix de retrouvés and more French phrases that use ‘ten’

With French Netflix series Dix pour cent winning Best Comedy at the International Emmy Awards, we look at French expressions containing the number ten

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

French television series Dix pour cent (Call My Agent!) was awarded Best Comedy at the International Emmy Awards in New York on November 22.

The Netflix series, which launched in 2015, follows the lives of Parisian talent agents as they try to keep their business afloat and clients satisfied.

Dix pour cent won the award for its fourth season.

The International Emmy Awards are given to television shows produced outside of the United States, with the UK having won the most awards (seven) in the Best Comedy category since its creation in 2003.

We look at three French expressions involving the number ten:

Un de perdu dix de retrouvés (literally ‘one lost ten found’):

This proverb expresses the idea that when we lose something, it can be replaced quickly, regardless of sentimental value. It is often used when speaking of love and heartbreak.

It is said that this expression was coined in the 13th century, at the time in the form of une de perdue, deux de retrouvées (‘one lost, two found’).

However, it is thought to have biblical origins, in particular in the Parable of the Lost Coin, in which a woman loses one of her ten silver coins, searches for it and rejoices when she finds it. 

Ne pas savoir que faire de ses dix doigts (literally ‘to not know what to do with your ten fingers’):

This expression is used to describe somebody who is lazy.

Here, fingers, which are capable of doing countless things, represent action. Not knowing what to do with all ten of them therefore suggests inaction, and implies that the subject of the expression is lazy.

À dix lieues à la ronde (literally ‘ten leagues around’):

This expression means ‘very far’.

A league is a unit of length that was used in France before the French Revolution. Its exact value differed according to place and time, varying between 3 and 5 kilometres.

To say something is ‘ten leagues around’ therefore means it is very far.

You may also hear the variations à dix cent lieues à la ronde (‘ten hundred leagues around’) and à dix milles lieues à la ronde (‘ten thousand leagues around').

An English equivalent of the expression would be ‘10,000 leagues under the sea’ or ‘leagues away’.

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