Un coup de fils

It is not often that I get a chance to really appreciate the beauty of another language at work. Last night, while I was having dinner in a Paris restaurant with my friend Henri, I noticed the headline on his newspaper:


L’ascension de Jean Sarkozy, simple comme un coup de fils

I realized that it had something to do with election to political office of the President’s son, which I had heard about, but there seemed to be something more going on. Henri explained that it was a clever pun that was quite specific to the French language.

First you need to know that Jean Sarkozy, at the tender age of 21, was recently elected to the office of Regional Manager in the very city where his father had once upon a time been Mayor – and had thereby begun his own gradual ascent to the Presidency of France.

In the wake of this surprising electoral victory, there have been dark murmurings of behind-the-scenes political influence, of presidential meddling in a local election. The headline neatly captured this mood. Taken literally, it reads:


The ascension of Jean Sarkozy, simple as a victory of a son.

But the phrase “coup de fils” – taking the word “fils” to mean “lines” (as in telephone lines) – is a also an idiom that means “phone call”. So the headline can also be read:


The ascension of Jean Sarkozy, simple as a phone call.

Isn’t that beautiful? Sigh.

Can anyone think of any puns in English that rise to this level of inspired wit?

One Response to “Un coup de fils”

  1. Translator says:

    Great article! thanks. And if you like idioms you should check this page outhttp://www.k-international.com/french_idiomsIt gives a list of French idioms with their English translations – really shows how funny language is out of context (and what a nightmare it can be to translate languages!). :-)

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