Faire les quatre cents coups

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Expression: Faire les quatre cents coups

Pronunciation: [fehr lay kat(reu) sa(n) coo]

Meaning: to raise hell, live a wild life, sow one's wild oats

Literal translation: to do the four hundred tricks

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Many expressions can't be translated literally between French and English, but the French expression faire les quatre cents coups is one that makes virtually no sense at all—you can't even guess as to what it means figuratively. It may be partly the definite article les ("the") that makes it so difficult, as if there are 400 specific tricks that one must do in order to claim that you've lived a truly wild life.

Also, the word coup has numerous meanings—in faire les quatre cents coups, it's in the sense of un mauvais coup i.e. "a dirty or mean trick." Unfortunately, the title of the François Truffaut's film Les Quatre Cents Coups was poorly translated as "The 400 Blows" in English. "400 Tricks" would have been a little better, but the best translation would have probably been something more figuratively comparable like "Raising Hell" or "The Wild One."


   Paul ne va pas à l'université; il fait toujours les quatre cents coups.

   Paul isn't going to college; he's still sowing his wild oats.

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Team, ThoughtCo. "Faire les quatre cents coups." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/faire-les-quatre-cents-coups-1371219. Team, ThoughtCo. (2023, April 5). Faire les quatre cents coups. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/faire-les-quatre-cents-coups-1371219 Team, ThoughtCo. "Faire les quatre cents coups." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/faire-les-quatre-cents-coups-1371219 (accessed June 9, 2023).