Le fond de l’air est frais

Le fond de l'air est frais
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French Expression

Meaning there’s a chill in the air
Literally the bottom/back of the air is cool
Register normal
Pronunciation [leu fo(n) deu leh ray freh]
IPA   [lə fɔ̃ də lɜ ʁe fʁɛ]

Usage notes: "There’s a chill in the air" is the closest thing English has to an idiomatic translation for the French expression le fond de l’air est frais, but it’s inaccurate. In English, a chill in the air is obvious – you wouldn’t dream of putting on shorts and sandals.

In the French expression, however, the weather seems nice: it’s springtime, the sun is shining, and you feel like summer is just around the corner. But then, just as you’re about to go out, someone with a sixth sense informs you that you should put a sweater on because le fond de l’air est frais. It’s the weather version of la beauté est quelque chose de superficiel (beauty is only skin deep).

Par exemple…

– Regarde comme il fait beau ! On peut faire un pique-nique.   Look how nice the weather is! We can have a picnic.
– Non, le fond de l’air est frais.   No, it’s colder than you think.

Variations

  • le fond de l’air est froid
  • le fond de l’air reste froid

Jeux de mots

  • Le fond de l’air effraie – “there are scary things in the air,” found in articles about pollution or politics. Note that this is a holorime: it is pronounced exactly the same as le fond de l’air est frais.
  • Le fond de l’air est chaud – a little joke about warm weather.
  • Le fond de l’air est bleu – reference to the French soccer team, les Bleus.
  • Le fond de l’air est rouge – title of a 1977 essay film. The literal translation is “the back of the air is red,” but idiomatically, it means “the essence of the air is red,” the implication being that the socialist movement didn’t actually exist. The English-subtitled film is called A Grin Without a Cat, a reference to the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland.
  • Le fond de l’air est vert, le fond de l’air est allergène… you can find many more word plays with Google.

 Related lessons

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Le fond de l'air est frais
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