Some idioms don’t translate. ‘Hair of the dog’ is one that springs to mind. Talking about ‘les cheveux du chien’ to a French speaker earns you nothing more than a shrug of the shoulders, I’ve learnt. They would take the phrase too literally to understand what you mean.
For a Briton, however, the sense is clear.
Yesterday I cooked roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and all the trimmings for lunch. To accompany it, I served a very nice Bordeaux, a 2011 Château Haut Philippon.
I knew a hearty Sunday roast would be just what we needed after a night celebrating our friend Michael’s birthday on Saturday. (Happy birthday, Michael!) I hadn’t realised quite how badly my partner would need some help in getting over his hangover. He had to go back to bed and surfaced just minutes before lunch.
We have a French-speaking Swiss student staying with us at the moment who looked baffled by this behaviour. (The young don’t get hangovers, from what I remember.)
I tried explaining why we were having a hearty lunch and a bottle of wine. However, the original sense of the idiom – treating a bite from a rabid dog by placing hair from the dog against the wound – was lost on him.
‘Guérir le mal par le mal’ was the idiom he offered instead.
As a phrase it does the trick but, let’s be honest, it’s nowhere near as evocative.