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Renvoyer aux calendes grecques

Question:

What does the French expression renvoyer aux calendes grecques mean in English?

Answer:

Figurative expressions can be very tricky to decipher for non-native speakers. Calendes, or calends in English, was the first day of each month in the Roman calendar. Since the Greeks did not have calends, the phrase renvoyer aux calendes grecques emphasizes the idea of putting something off indefinitely.

Here's a list of possible translations: delay, forestall, postpone, postpone indefinitely, put aside, put off, put on hold, put on ice, put on the back burner.

For example,

  • renvoyer aux calendes grecques la mise sur pied d'une procédure
    delay setting up a procedure
  • renvoyer aux calendes grecques la mise en œuvre de ces initiatives
    forestall implementation of these initiatives
  • renvoyer aux calendes grecques le projet de recherche
    postpone the research project
    or
    postpone the research project indefinitely
  • renvoyer aux calendes grecques le travail sur la politique
    put aside work on the policy
  • renvoyer aux calendes grecques la décision portant sur la création d'un programme national
    put off the decision to create a national program
  • renvoyer la réunion aux calendes grecques
    put the meeting on hold
  • renvoyer aux calendes grecques le réaménagement de l'édifice
    put the refurbishment of the building on ice (on the back burner)

Note that the adverb indefinitely can be added to any of these English equivalents, as in the example for postpone/postpone indefinitely.