The Frenchmen: are they cynics, cuckolds and opponents of marriage?

A discussion of marriage usually spawns various reactions (joy, happiness and jubilation vs. doubt, black humour and despair ), probably because it’s a major milestone in a couple’s lifetime. Here are a couple of French proverbs and famous quotations on the subject: try to bring them out again over dinner – guaranteed to make a great impression ! 😉

Those who are in favour of the marriage:

Marriage is a prose translation of the poem of love. [Alfred Bougeard]
A happy marriage is a long discussion seeming always too short. [André Maurois]
Mariage pluvieux, mariage heureux. (Rainy wedding, happy marriage)
Mariage plus vieux, mariage heureux. (Wedding late in life, happy marriage) [Christophe Chenebault]

Those who declare themselves without opinion:

Marriage must ceaselessly fight a hungry monster : habitude. [Honoré de Balzac]
A good marriage is one where at day one forgets being lovers, and at night being husband and wife. [Jean Rostand]
There is no bad marriage. Only bad husbands.

Those who are opposed to marriage:

A man’s greatest misfortune, it’s a happy marriage. No hope of divorce. [Milan Kundera]
Wedding bells tire out women’s arms and lengthen their tongue.
Wedding day and funeral day are two days of joy for the holdover.

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Cuckolds: for sure, they attract gibes and quipes… Recipe for a good story about cuckolds: a bit of scandal, one spoonful of voyeurism, a pinch of mockery … Cuckolds: a pure application of the German Schadenfreude (happiness from someone else’s misfortunes) !

Better cuckold than blind. At least one can see the fellows. [Guillaume Apollinaire]
He’s such a cuckold that in order to make love to his wife he disguises himself as a neighbour. [Jules Renard]
The heaviness of the chains of marriage is to be carried by two people. Sometimes three. [Alexandre Dumas, son]
Better cuckold than Secretary. It lasts longer and you don’t have to attend the seances. [Léo Campion]
Un cocu ? Un entier qui partage sa moitié avec un tiers. (A cuckold ? One guy sharing his better-half with a third person.) [Alphonse Allais]

Here is now a juicy expression in French: the cuckold is “wearing horns” (porter les cornes), the cheating spouse “sticks horns” (planter des cornes) into his partner’s head. The origin remains unclear, so I prefer to confine myself to the funny explanation: although horns are well visible to everyone, the bearer is the last person to be aware of it… In other words, everyone knows about it but the concerned person…


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Another expression: “Lucky in gambling, unhappy in love” (Heureux au jeu, malheureux en amour), which is based upon the double meaning of heureux: fortunate / happy. The opposite is used, too: Malheureux au jeu, heureux en amour. Good to know for your next Monopoly game, poker session or kicker match…


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Celebrating wedding anniversaries à la française is like running a grocery. Each year bears a name of material, plant, stone or fabric.
For example, a none-year-old couple celebrates cotton wedding ; after two years, leather wedding ; then wheat, wax and wood. 10 years: tin wedding ; 20 years: china wedding ; 30 years: pearl wedding. Poetic, isn’t it ?

Somehow, some names reveal a lack of inspiration: mercury wedding, zinc, chinchilla… o_O

The list ends with oak (85 years of wedding), uranium (90 years), granite (95 years) and water (one century of marriage!). Vive les mariés ! You find here the full list.

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