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Se la couler douce

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Se la couler douce

Je me la coule douce is a lovely expression which we hope you can still use for a few more days before the busy fall season kicks in.  It literally translates as I'm flowing myself softly, and means I'm taking it easy, I'm relaxing.  Couler means to flow and douce is soft, or sweet.

The expression belongs to everyday French and is acceptable in any kind of conversation. When applied to someone else, however, it is usually intended as an ironic comment, and can even be slightly derogatory, as in: he/she is taking it a little too easy; it wouldn't kill them to try a little harder.  In that, it is less neutral than its English counterpart.  Another difference is that the English is often used in the imperative form, such as "Take it easy!" but the French phrase can't be used that way.  Instead, the French will say: Vas-y doucement - go slowly - , or (ne) te fatigues pas! - don't overdo it!

Origin

The expression, which appeared in the 19th century, is simply an elliptical form of the much older phrase couler une vie douce - flowing a soft life - a philosophy that our Italian friends expressed in the form of "dolce vita."  LA stands for la vie in the same way as IT stands for life in the English taking it easy.

While wine sometimes flows freely and water flows from mountains, the verb couler does not only apply to liquids in French: it also has a temporal meaning.  We say that le temps s'écoule - time flows - and we speak of couler des jours heureux - flowing happy days. The adjective SOFT applied to a life lived without worries and led without effort, comes in opposition to the HARD life - la vie dure - led by workers who rarely have the opportunity to lie back and relax.

Examples

J'ai hâte d'être à la retraite pour pouvoir enfin me la couler douce!
I look forward to retiring and be able to take it easy, finally!

J'ai l'impression que les ouvriers se la coulent douce sur ce chantier; les travaux n'avancent pas.
It looks like the construction workers don't do much on this site; they take forever.

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