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samedi 13 mars 2010

“Too Big to Fail” – Thoughts on phrasal verbs - Part 2 (English)

Le présent billet a été rédigé par Jacquie Bridonneau, que je remercie.

For those of you who missed part 1, I had started to write a bit about the phrasal verbs, omni-present in “Too Big to Fail” by Andrew Ross Sorkin. This is a book published in 2009 by Allen Lane, an imprint of Penguin Books, and anyone who has been wondering about how the US could ever have gotten itself into such a position, so quickly and so deeply, and what was actually done about it, and the players either governmental or institutional, will find answers in this book, which reads just like a thriller.

I actually should have started with the phrasal verb that has been on everyone’s lips since this episode: to bail out, or the noun, a bailout. This word is actually easy to understand, as when you bail a boat out, you get rid of the water with a can or whatever you happen to have on hand, and you thus keep the boat from sinking. In French we have the verb “écoper” or “vider l’eau” but we don’t really transform this verb into a noun, as we do in English. And strangely enough “bail” is also the money that is paid to get someone out of jail while he is waiting for his trial (“caution”) but here this is not where the phrasal verb came from.

Here is probably the best example in the book, combining the literal and figurative meanings: “Why would you try to bail out people whose sole job it is to make money? We just hit the iceberg...the boat is filling with water and the music is still playing. There aren’t enough lifeboats...Someone is going to die.”

In other words: to save, to rescue, to get them out of trouble.

Possible French translations: vider, écoper for the literal meanings, tirer d’affaire, renflouer for the more figurative meanings.

Phrasal verb: to gird for

Example from book: “It was late Wednesday, and the Treasury staff was already girding for another all-nighter.”

A girder is something that is strong, that reinforced what is beneath it, or above it. Without girders, buildings would collapse, so this verb gives us the idea of how difficult the action will be. The author could have simply said they were getting ready, or they were preparing themselves for another all night working session, but using this phrasal verb reinforces the idea of the difficulty they will be having. This also goes back to old English, where knights or soldiers in armour had to “gird” themselves, putting on their helmets, etc. before going into battle.

Possible French translations: s’apprêter, se préparer

Phrasal verb : to fish around for

Example from book: “‘Listen, Jamie just called me fishing around for something,’ Colm Kelleher told John Mack midday as he marched into his office.”

When you go fishing in a lake or a pond, you have no idea if there are actually any fish where you have put your pole. You’re hoping there are, but sometimes you have to try two or three different places to actually get a bite. So when you fish around for something, you are trying to find something, usually something intangible like an idea, or an opinion, without any guarantee that you actually will.

Possible French translations: chercher, farfouiller.

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