0

The Mystery of the Blue Train, Chapter 16

I couldn't find any similar usage. Could it be a sheer mistake, or is there more to it?

2
  • Please add the details of your research efforts to your question.
    – MetaEd
    Aug 2 '16 at 15:03
  • 1
    Remember that the character is Belgian, he has been written by an English speaker and for an English speaking readership to have an idiosyncratic use of the language which will sound ever so slightly out of the common register to make him sound more foreign. It is difficult to tell from a the shortness of the extract, but I think it should probably be taken to mean something like, 'think what you will of me', to indicate that he cares not what people think of his 'little hobby'. though of course Poirot cares greatly that we know there is no-one better than him at rational deduction.
    – Spagirl
    Aug 2 '16 at 15:07
1

"What will you", which is not idiomatic in English, appears to be an idiosyncracy, or even a catchphrase perhaps, of the character Hercule Poirot. It appears on other occasions:

"Mon ami, what will you? You fix upon me a look of doglike devotion and demand of me a pronouncement a la Sherlock Holmes!" (The ABC Murders) http://www.bookfree.com.cn/yingwen/agch-theabc/008.htm

"Certainly. I write with perfect politeness, tender my regrets, my apologies, explain that I am completely desolated-but what will you? I have retired-I am finished." (Peril At End House) http://www.obooksbooks.com/2015/3806.html

"What will you? When one is unique, one knows it! And others share that opinion - even, if I mistake not, Miss Mary Marvell." (Poirot Investigates) http://www.obooksbooks.com/2015/4077.html

I suspect it's an overly-literal translation of a French phrase which has a meaning similar to "What of it?", or "What do you want me to do about it?". Its usage in context appears similar to those phrases, anyway.

3
  • Thanks for the answer. It looks like the phrase only appears in the Poirot novels. I tried to reverse it into French in the light of your opinion, but didn't succeed (yet) in finding any French saying that can be literally translated as "what will you".
    – user188416
    Aug 2 '16 at 16:56
  • Perhaps, as @spagirl suggests in the comments on the question, it's a made-up"Belgianism", invented by Agatha Christie (who for all I know could not speak French at all) to remind us that Poirot is a foreigner. Aug 3 '16 at 7:34
  • 'Que voulez-vous?' Nov 23 '18 at 13:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.