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C'est au pied du mur qu'on voit le maçon

English translation: just some info

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15:00 Nov 6, 2007
French to English translations [Non-PRO]
Art/Literary - Poetry & Literature / Proverbs
French term or phrase: C'est au pied du mur qu'on voit le maçon
As much as anything, I'm asking this to compare it to another question asked here recently, for on the Ouèbbhe I found this:

The tree is known by its fruit. C'est au pied du mur qu'on voit le maçon.

Now, recently, someone was asking about "on reconnaît l'arbre par son fruit", and I remember a Biblical comment.

In my case, we are talking about a builder (maçon), and I'm torturing myself trying to figure out what it means, without wanting to feel the proverb has been thrown in simply because, terminologically at least, it seems appropriate. It follows on from a short passage about never asking people to do a job you can't do yourself, giving before you take, giving people a sense of self-worth, and how making mistakes does not prevent people advancing. Then "C'est au pied du mur qu'on voit le maçon".

Nothing I've found on the web is very convincing.

- You know the man by his work? But if he is still at the bottom of the wall, you've hardly got anything to judge by.

- You can best judge a person by the meticulousness of his preparatory work (if the foundation is well built, the wall be so). [cf previous comment: don't attempt to build a wall if you're not prepared to dig the trench and build the foundation yourself] ? (what worries me is that if you try hard enough, you can read anything you like into a proverb).

- You know someone is a hard worker when you see him working?

- The proof of the pudding is in the eating?

- If at first you don't succeed, try, try again - every time your wall falls down, you start building it again?

Ideas - particularly substantiated - welcome.
xxxBourth
Local time: 14:48
English translation:just some info
Explanation:
I've never come across this expression before and was curious. There are numerous examples of it in use on the Oueb (I googled "pied du mur" + maçon). Here's one definition I found:

"C'est au pied du mur que l'on juge le maçon, proclame l'adage. Autrement dit, vos actes et actions de tous les instants, de tous les jours, de toute la semaine, aideront, seuls, a apprécier de vos aptitudes véritables, de vos compétences, de vos capacités."

Food for thought...
Selected response from:

Sandra Petch
Local time: 14:48
Grading comment
It's that quoted explanation that clinched it. Thanks.
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer

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Summary of answers provided
3You can judge the builder when he has his back to the wallkatsy
1 +1A building is only as solid as its foundations
Mark Nathan
2when the going gets tough, the tough get goingxxxCMJ_Trans
2just some infoSandra Petch
2the master shows himself in the detail
Ingeborg Gowans


Discussion entries: 1





  

Answers


5 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5
You can judge the builder when he has his back to the wall


Explanation:
"être au pied du mur" means (Robert) - "acculé à", to be in dire straits....
You judge the decorator when he's painted himself into a corner? (NB a joke - for those who might take me too seriously)

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Note added at 18 mins (2007-11-06 15:19:04 GMT)
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some substantiation as requested...... that you can also judge someone's worth when they are doing a difficult job, and how they get out of sticky situations, that (maybe) anyone can do a job that's easy.....

katsy
Local time: 14:48
Specializes in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 15
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50 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 2/5Answerer confidence 2/5
the master shows himself in the detail


Explanation:
I am really going out on a limb here, but my understandingis this: "au pied du mur" you are looking at the work in detail and can judge whether it has quality...


Ingeborg Gowans
Canada
Local time: 09:48
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in GermanGerman
PRO pts in category: 4
Notes to answerer
Asker: Now that's an interpretation I had not envisaged, that it is the "speaker" who is close to the wall ...

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54 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 2/5Answerer confidence 2/5
just some info


Explanation:
I've never come across this expression before and was curious. There are numerous examples of it in use on the Oueb (I googled "pied du mur" + maçon). Here's one definition I found:

"C'est au pied du mur que l'on juge le maçon, proclame l'adage. Autrement dit, vos actes et actions de tous les instants, de tous les jours, de toute la semaine, aideront, seuls, a apprécier de vos aptitudes véritables, de vos compétences, de vos capacités."

Food for thought...

Sandra Petch
Local time: 14:48
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 8
Grading comment
It's that quoted explanation that clinched it. Thanks.
Notes to answerer
Asker: Now why didn't I find that? That's just the sort of "substantiation" I was looking for. So not to be taken too literally, and my first attempt (Know the man by his work) was close. Loads of interesting ideas here ...

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29 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 2/5Answerer confidence 2/5
when the going gets tough, the tough get going


Explanation:
just a thought

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Note added at 1 hr (2007-11-06 16:18:13 GMT)
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http://www.europelibre.com/CL2002/cl020626.htm

you should judge people on their acts

xxxCMJ_Trans
Local time: 14:48
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 94
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58 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 1/5Answerer confidence 1/5 peer agreement (net): +1
A building is only as solid as its foundations


Explanation:
Literally and ethically etc.
Not really a proverb as such, but fits in with the tone of the other remarks - might serve as a springboard.

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Note added at 1 hr (2007-11-06 16:29:29 GMT)
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Having just read a few of Aesops fables, I asked my five year old son if he knew any proverbs, and he nodded wisely saying, "Don't always be listening to people by the sound of their talk."


Mark Nathan
France
Local time: 14:48
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 8

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  siragui: This seems very perceptive to me ... and dovetails interestingly with the "fruit" proverb.
18 mins
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