January 2, 2011
I Need a French Idiom...
Friendly readers, I'm transcribing an interview, and the subject spoke a term I cannot understand or unpack. He is a Korean War vet, and he said that around the South Koreans, he and his fellow American paratroopers always had to be [unknown expression here], which he defined as "on the edge" or "at the ready"... meaning that you never knew whether a South Korean was on your side or secretly on the North's side.
The word or words he used were in French, he said; phonetically, they sound to me like "kay deeve."
Does any of you know enough idiomatic French (or Korean-War idioms) to hazard a guess as to what he actually said? He repeated it clearly several times at my prompting, but I still can't find the phrase on Babel Fish; sadly, he has since died, so I can't ask him what he said, at least not without the intervention of a Ouija Board.
Anybody have any idea what he was saying and how to spell it?
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 2, 2011, at the time of 2:14 AM
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The following hissed in response by: Carol Christopher
Perhaps the phrase is "qui vive".
The following hissed in response by: Alasdair Burton
kh + e acute + dive (khedive with first e acute) is a french word already - but I have not yet tied it to idiomatic/slang french ... it got to french via Egypt and means the Viceroy for the Sultan ...
"on the 'qui vive'" - on the alert, watching out for ... this is an english language idiom that derives from Napoleonic times when the sentry challenge was "Qui vive ?" ...
I hope this helps ...
The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh
Alastair, Carol Christopher:
Yes! Yes, it must be qui vive... or more properly, "on the qui vive," which the Free Online Dictionary defines as "On the alert; vigilant."
Thanks a million. Say, there might actually be something useful about this "internet" thing after all, you think?
The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh at January 2, 2011 12:54 PM
The following hissed in response by: Bill Befort
Yeah, it's "on the qui vive," and -- hey, it didn't take 'em long after DADT repeal to make their example, did it?
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