jouer l’arlésienne

“Jouer l’arlésienne” is a creative and unique French idiom that translates literally to “to play the girl from Arles”. English meanings include:

  • to fail to materialize
  • a mirage

This expression originates from a story by Daudet in which a girl from Arles is long awaited by her amant (lover) but never appears.

Expressio.fr gives some interesting meanings in French: 1) Somebody or an action that one waits for but never arrives; and 2) Something that one talks about but never happens or comes to fruition.

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Here’s an example sentence:

  • Sa grande maison de vacances joue l’arlésienne depuis plus que dix ans. Il parle toujours de ses projets mais il ne fais jamais rien. His big vacation home has failed to materialize for over ten years. He always talks about his plans but never does anything.

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