Blaming Tony Blair is like trying to pin jelly to a wall. I heard this expression earlier today on Radio 4. The journalist was commenting on how miraculously Tony Blair had been absolved by the Hutton enquiry into the death of Dr Kelly. It seems that no one can prove anything against the Prime Minister.
I of course immediately wondered how to translate this expression into French. And failed. I just couldn’t think of an equivalent visual expression in French. Jelly being so quintessentially British, I wondered if I could make up an expression with something quintessentially French that would also be impossible to pin to a wall. A baguette? That’s actually possible, you just need a really long pin. Cheese? Better, as it works for crumbly cheese, but then you could pin hard cheese, like camembert or gruyère. Wine? But who would try to pin wine on a wall anyway?
This was clearly getting silly. I needed a fresh approach. I turned to the Internet, my faithful ally, and found this one, which I quite liked: like teaching the Eiffel Tower to waltz (autant essayer d’apprendre à la Tour Eiffel à valser). Not quite as good, but still visual. Then I called my mum, who, with the help of the customers in her little shop, is always a precious resource when I’m looking for expressions. The best thing she could think of was "on reprochera quelque chose à Blair quand les poules auront des dents" (Blair will be blamed when chickens have teeth). It’s a better-known expression in French but we lose the visual image of an impossible and rather silly task. So I’m still not satisfied. Of course, your suggestions/flashes of creativity are most welcome.
The Nouvel Observateur translated this quote in the following manner: "Épingler Blair ? Impossible. Autant essayer essayer de punaiser de la gelée de fruit sur un mur !".
Interesting… A very literal translation, but I like the use of several sentences, which gives it a nice light rhythm. Another interesting choice is the very British jelly that’s been adapted to gelée de fruits. Borrowing jelly wouldn’t have confused any French speaking reader, most of whom have heard of this intriguing foodstuff. It would have allowed to give it a British air, which would have been a nice touch, seeing as this deals about British internal affairs.