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Trempé comme une soupe

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Trempé comme une soupe

If you walked through the rain this morning without a raincoat, trempé comme une soupe could describe your soggy state quite accurately: you are drenched, soaked to the bone, wet to the skin. In short: you look like a drowned rat. In French you're soaked like a soup. Wait, a soup??? Isn't all soup wet to start with? How can a liquid get drenched? Besides, soaking wet typically goes along with being cold, whereas most soups are hot, so where’s the logic? As perplexing as this choice of words may seem, it makes more sense when we look back at the word's history...

Origin

Surprise! Une soupe used to mean something quite different altogether in the distant past. According to Le Petit Robert, in the early Middle Ages une soupe referred to a piece of bread over which broth was poured, which – you guessed it – soaked the bread. (Think French onion soup.) So trempé comme une soupe doesn’t literally mean "soaked like a soup," but rather "soaked like a piece of bread dipped in a soup." The morsel was used to sop up the broth, so it made perfect sense to get it as soaked as possible. In fact, it was its very purpose in life to get soaked. But over time, we find new meaning to our existence and this was the case for la soupe. By the 14th century, it came to mean the very bouillon (broth) or potage (thick soup) that bread was dipped in. Ultimately, this interpretation prevailed in French and gave rise to the English word soup.

Note: trempé is the past participle of the verb tremper (to soak), and agrees with the subject in gender and number. So it could become trempée, trempés or trempées. If you are referring to more than one wet mess, une soupe will become des soupes.

Examples

Nous sommes sortis sans parapluie et sommes rentrés trempés comme des soupes.

We left without umbrellas and came home drenched to the bone.

Elle a été prise dans une averse, elle était trempée comme une soupe.

She got caught in a downpour; she was soaked wet.

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