Montrer patte blanche



The expression translates word by word as to show a white paw, which seems like an easy thing to do if you're a cute, fluffy rabbit, a fleecy lamb or a cat 'in white socks.' The question is, how are we bipeds supposed to show a white paw? And more importantly: why should we?


Montrer patte blanche is equivalent to the English to show your credentials, identify or prove yourself, either literally (with a paper or document) or figuratively. This idiom can be used in contexts such as being able to gain access to a building, a function, a party, or any other type of meeting with restricted access. Figuratively, it may be used to describe someone who appears open, honest and legitimate.



Origin


The expression was made popular by a French fable entitled Le Loup, la Chèvre et le Chevreau - The Wolf, The Goat and The Kid - written by Jean de La Fontaine in 1668.

In the story a mother goat leaves her baby goat at home alone, and tells him not to answer the door unless he can see through the window that the caller has a white paw, or hoof, like her own.


When the wolf comes calling, the baby goat asks it to montrer patte blanche. When the wolf cannot, the baby goat does not let the wolf in and stays safe.


Another version of the story written by the Brothers Grimm has a, well, grimmer outcome. In their telling, the clever wolf dips his paw in flour to color it white, and tricks its way inside to eat the baby goat.



Examples


Ces temps-ci en France, les gens doivent avoir un passeport sanitaire pour se rendre dans les restaurants, les bars ou les centres commerciaux. En d'autres termes, ils doivent montrer patte blanche.

These days, people in France need to use a health pass to go to restaurants, bars, and shopping malls. In other words, they have to show ‘they can be trusted,’ before they are allowed inside an establishment.


Pour accéder à Culturethèque, il faut montrer patte blanche.

To gain access to Culturethèque, you need to be an AF member.