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Chanter comme une casserole

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Chanter comme une casserole

Francophones seem particularly bothered by the clattering of saucepans and this has inspired a number of interesting idioms - see our previous post on Traîner des casseroles.

Chanter comme une casserole - singing like a saucepan - is another one of these.  What kind of sound could come out of a saucepan?  Two kinds come to mind.  One would be the dull "glop, glop," of a boiling pot.  The other sound would be the metallic cacophony of steel crashing onto your kitchen floor followed by the rolling and wobbling as your cookware tries to settle.  Would you say that either sound is particularly pleasant?  Probably not - although a number of twentieth-century avant-garde composers might tell you otherwise.  But popular wisdom tends to be conservative and it is no surprise that singing like saucepans is used to describe lousy singers.  Perhaps they are tone-deaf, hitting every note except the right one, like a pan bouncing off a tiled floor.  Or they were given a voice that could rupture eardrums.

Note that une casserole can also be used by itself.  If someone exclaims quelle casserole!, they are not refering to your culinary skills, they're saying you couldn't carry a tune in a bucket.  If they are delighted by your voice, on the other hand,  they might say that you are un rossignol - a nightingale.  And that is a compliment.

Another useful casserole expression is raisonner comme une casserole - to reason like a saucepan - which means demonstrating poor logic.

The metaphor is a little less obvious here, even though no one would deny that debating philosophical matters with a saucepan would lead you nowhere.  There is actually a little more to this expression than that: it is in fact a pun that plays upon two homophonous verbs: raisonner, which means to reason, and résonner, which means to resound.  So when you say, “il raisonne comme une casserole,” it is really a double entendre, meaning that the person has as much sense as a saucepan, but also implying that if you banged him on the head, it would likely echo.  At first sight the meaning can seem fairly close to the English he is not the sharpest tool in the shed.  It is a bit different, however, in that you would use it to point out how flawed someone's arguments are in a specific context or debate,  rather than making a blanket statement about their cognitive abilities.

These expressions seemed to have appeared in the 19th century although the exact circumstances as to how and when they spread into everyday French are uncertain.

Examples

Il chante comme une casserole mais personne n'ose le lui dire.
He can't sing to save his life but no one dares tell him that.

J'aurais voulu être chanteuse mais je chante comme une casserole!
I would have liked to be a singer but I can't carry a tune!

Ce n’est pas la peine d’essayer de discuter avec lui, il raisonne comme une casserole.
It’s not worth trying to talk to him, he doesn't have much common sense.

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