Юлия Гофри (jgofri) wrote in linguaphiles,

Proverb origin

Hello everyone.

Recently, I was trying to find an information on what is supposed to be a famous quote, and ran into a dead wall.

There is a saying in Russian that is, interestingly enough, attributed to Napoleon.  The first and famous one. I was unable to find a specific source (like a reference to a specific letter or such.)
When I tried to search for that same expression in the English segment of the Internet, I came up with nothing.
I asked a French-speaking friend to do the search in French, which I am assuming Napoleon used when saying this - same result.
The saying, when I translate it from Russian, goes something like this:

"The people who do not want to feed their own army will end up feeding somebody else's [army]."
(In Russian: "Народ, который не хочет кормить свою армию, будет кормить чужую.")

Keep in mind that the version I translated into English was (supposedly) translated into Russian from French, so the original might sound somewhat different.
However, the only Napoleon quote I have found on this topic is about the army marching on it's stomach, and, unless the translator was way, way too creative, I don't think that is the source.  It's not like it couldn't have happen, of course.  There is a Russian idiom "to feel in another one's plate" which means "to feel out of place" and was supposedly born as a mistranslation of some French expression.  It could also be mistakenly attributed all together.  Still, if this is, indeed, the case, I would very much like to know.
Does anyone have any information on the topic?
Tags: french, russian, translation
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  • 2 comments

wosny

April 8 2014, 05:34:55 UTC 8 months ago

This is a really interesting question. I know the French expression
"Je ne me sens pas dans mon assiette" which I have understood to mean to feel out of sorts, a bit unwell...
However the original quote doesn't ring a bell... although it sounds as though it would make sense to a General.
I shall come back to find what others say about this. :)

jgofri

April 9 2014, 20:19:07 UTC 8 months ago

Apparently, no takers :)