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Swiss French expression of the Day: Il n’y a pas le feu au lac

This expression is either Swiss in origin or some French mockery of the Swiss - but is handy in moments of non-crisis.

Swiss French expression of the Day: Il n’y a pas le feu au lac

Why do I need to know il n’y a pas le feu au lac?

In case you are looking for a more creative way to tell the people around you to calm down and stop rushing, or because you are tired of being cut in line at the boulangerie.

What does it mean?

Il n’y a pas le feu au lac – pronounced eel n’yah pah luh fuh oh lack – literally means there is no fire in the lake, but the expression actually means that there is no emergency, or no need to be panicked.

Presumed to be originally Swiss, and a reference to Lake Geneva, the expression pokes fun at the absurdity of water being on fire.

However, some think that the expression is actually intended to gently mock the Swiss for their slower approach to life (quite a common trope in France, although we can’t see anything wrong with taking life at a steady pace).

Use it like this

La femme m’a poussé en essayant de monter dans le métro, alors je lui ai dit “Il n’y a pas le feu au lac, Madame,” – The woman pushed me while trying to get on the metro, so I told her “There is no fire in the lake, ma’am.”

Il n’est pas nécessaire de finir vos devoirs aujourd’hui car ils sont à rendre dans deux semaines. Il n’y a pas le feu au lac. – It is not urgent to finish your homework today because it is due in two weeks. It’s not urgent.

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