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I am looking for a translation of the French "la vie est dure sans confiture".

Babel Fish gives me "life is hard without jam". But I am not sure whether this phrase is really in use.

Are there equivalent English phrases for this French proverb?

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That isn't a proverb I've ever heard. If you could share its meaning, it would be easier to think of an equivalent. –  onomatomaniak Oct 20 '11 at 8:42
    
In german I would give it the meaning "Ein bischen Spass muss sein.", which translates to "A little fun must be.". Life wouldn't be bearable without a little sweetnees. Something along these lines. Problem is when I would use "A little fun must be" it is too explicit for my purpose, I am loosing the indirect reference. –  j4n bur53 Oct 20 '11 at 8:57
    
I don't know if good old Protestant asceticism is to blame or what, but I can think of about fifty proverbs about doing without luxury, while not a single one about how a little luxury's essential is coming to mind... –  onomatomaniak Oct 20 '11 at 9:02
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Well it doesn't mean necessary material luxury, what I found was something along "Love makes life more bearable". BTW: The long form is: "C'est la vie Et la vie est dure sans confiture avec du beurre c'est meilleure", which adds to it: "With butter its better". It could have a ironic background, or it could have a serious background, like famine and war. I don't know the ethymology. –  j4n bur53 Oct 20 '11 at 9:13
    
Things like "A spoonful of sugar (makes the medicine go down)" and "It's the little things that count" are coming to mind, but I'm not sure if those are really applicable. –  onomatomaniak Oct 20 '11 at 9:14

5 Answers 5

I think the underlying sentiment is probably the same as the English saying All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, which usually means you need to indulge yourself sometimes.

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Or, "Exclusive dedication to necessitous chores without interludes of hedonistic diversion renders Jack a hebetudinous fellow." –  Sam Oct 20 '11 at 14:07
    
I'm glad someone could think of a mildly hedonistic idiom. I was feeling depressed about the lack. –  onomatomaniak Oct 20 '11 at 14:09

I think the meaning of the saying is clear - the figurative role of confiture is similar to that in "always jam tomorrow" in English.

That said, it's not a standard phrase in English, and it's clear that the appeal of the phrase in French owes something to the rhyme between dure and confiture.

Perhaps the closest phrase in English is "A little bit of what you fancy does you good", but it's not a homely or comforting phrase - if anything it has an air of decadence.

Over all, I would suggest that you use a translation of the long form, which preserves the rhyming element in "but with butter it's better".

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Just reading: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jam_tomorrow , something in common with the french proverb but not an exact match I guess. –  j4n bur53 Oct 20 '11 at 11:02
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More uses of jam collected here: phrases.org.uk/meanings/jam-tomorrow.html . –  j4n bur53 Oct 20 '11 at 11:07

I'd volunteer "A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down" from the film Mary Poppins. The medicine would a metaphor for life, in this case, and serves as a tone-setting statement for the film's theme that life's little pleasures should be enjoyed whenever possible to offset all of the troubles that come with living.

EDIT: Another option would be "Stop and smell the roses" which was the title of a Ringo Starr album in 1981, but could also be attributed a misquote of the golfer Walter Hagen when he stated, "You're only here for a short visit. Don't hurry. Don't worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way."

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How about "What's life without luxuries"? One of my favourite sayings :)

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Like in unp.me/f44/whats-life-without-a-bit-of-luxury-42393 , damage ranges from $175 to $21,321,000. –  j4n bur53 Oct 20 '11 at 11:10
    
This seems also to be in use: "life is hard let's go shopping". –  j4n bur53 Oct 20 '11 at 11:37

I've translated it for years as: Life is smelly without jelly.

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