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I recently heard the phrase "taking a bath with the crowd" and that apparently it's a common idiom in many European languages. I found several results for the phrase on Google, but none that explain what it means. Does anyone know what the phrase means, and if there's a common (American) English phrase that means the same thing?

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2 Answers

It means “to mingle with the crowd” or maybe a bit more faithfully to “immerse oneself in the crowd” (as suggested by StoneyB in the comments).

The original idiom is closer to “taking a bath of crowd” (in French at least). Just as if the world were a container filled with human beings.

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Is this Baudelaire's " Il n'est pas donné à chacun de prendre un bain de multitude"? –  StoneyB Sep 23 '12 at 17:30
    
Baudelaire uses a variation here. “Un bain de foule” is the usual and very common idiom. –  Stéphane Gimenez Sep 23 '12 at 17:33
    
But does the idiom predate Baudelaire, or does it derive from "Les Foules"? –  StoneyB Sep 23 '12 at 17:36
    
Interesting question. I would not trust these figures too much, but ngrams suggests that these phrases appeared around Baudelaire's time. –  Stéphane Gimenez Sep 23 '12 at 17:42
    
Hmm ... well, if you can trust Google Books (you can't!), the only citation for "bain de foule" before B's time is this. (The other one it finds, labeled "1833", is in fact dated 1889.) Perhaps B was indirectly punning on the term from vintage? –  StoneyB Sep 23 '12 at 17:58
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Stéphane's suggestion, “to mingle with the crowd”, may well reflect the intended meaning of the speaker of the phrase. But note that in English, the phrase “take a bath” often is associated with a stock-market loss (1, 2); since the European idiom is not well-known in the U.S., I'd expect American English speakers to either associate your phrase with taking a loss in the market (along with a crowd of other investors) or to interpret the phrase literally.

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