In English, to split hairs means to argue about unimportant details, not to do something with too much care. Is this what you meant? I can't be sure. If you said "You are just splitting hairs" then you would be accusing someone of disagreeing with you about a very trivial detail, something that doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. But to do something with too much care is not the same thing at all. Does the French phrase mean to do something with too much care? Or to quibble about petty distinctions? Or both?
I dunno...I think rebekasto has a point: it seems to me that making unimportant distinctions is not the same as doing something with an inordinate amount of care (even if they have overlap in some cases). But I think sloggo has a point too, since it could be that what is "hair-splitting" to one person is, to another person, of fundamental importance in not holding muddled views (differentiates experts (and geeks!) from those with casual interest). The point is that "splitting hairs" definitely means making unimportant distinctions as its primary meaning; the question is whether the French idiom has the same meaning as "splitting hairs."
This is your sentence:
-il y a une bombe là-bas
There would need a space after the sign [-] and you should capitalize "il" to "Il". And, maybe you might add a full stop at the end, then a blank line for clarity in reading.
What I have just done is "couper les cheveux en quatre": going into unnecessary details, since I have perfectly understood your sentence.
Imagine that you are at a community meeting. The topic before the town Safety Committee is that some residents want a traffic light at a busy intersection. Imagine that you are one of the concerned residents. You are explaining to the Safety Committee how the traffic light will be paid for without costing too much. One of your neighbors interrupts and expresses concern. He wants to call it a "stop and go light" and not a traffic light. You turn to him and say, "Let's not split hairs."
It's unimportant what it's called at the moment. THE GOAL IS TO GET THE LIGHT to control traffic and enable residents to cross the street safely.
At this point what the neighbor wants to call the light isn't as important as getting the light. It really isn't on topic either.
Once the residents have the light your neighbor can call it whatever he wants.
I just checked on that and the length of the hint is limited. I.e., there is not enough space to enter the whole idiom. Now that we have been exposed to it, perhaps we will remember the expression: Ne coupons pas les cheveux en quatre (or this alternative) "Ne cherchons pas la petite bête". http://www.wordreference.com/enfr/split%20hairs
FWIW, I see what you mean, but en-gb usage would be to say to someone else ... "don't split hairs" as "let's not split hairs" is quite formal. Indeed if I saw two translations, one using the former and the other the latter then I'd assume the latter were a non-native speaker or a much older person.
This is curious though, is the French phrase using "ne coupons pas" really not being imperative, or is it styled as seeking a agreement but actually trying to demand compliance? Is this a nicety, a polite turn, or is the French phrase really seeking agreement. When used in English this is used to say "don't be a jerk about it!", not "perhaps we should agree not to get involved in the minutiae, what do you think?".
It is an idiom because the sentence means something other than the literal meaning. It's not about hair(s). An idiom: a group of words whose meaning considered as a unit is different from the meanings of each word considered separately. The imperative form of the first-person plural means "let's" + verb. By adding the negative "ne...pas" around the imperative verb, it becomes "let's not" + verb. That part is direct...and needs to be. When adding the reference to cutting hair into quarters, it is no longer literal, but figurative, i.e., an idiom. English speakers don't say "cut hairs into quarters"; we say "split hairs" which is the comparable idiom in English.
`Be careful because the sound is wrong.
It sounds like "Ne coupcons pas les cheveux en quattre" but it should be more like this:
If I were to split hairs here, and why not, computers can do Levenshtein Distance (loosely, the number of edits needed to move from one word to another); a modification of that to consider punctuation differences to be shorter distances might also be good (as you do for missing accents). Duo does something like this when it says an answer is correct but says there is a typo.
You could easily come across the situation in real life where there is an idiom or phrase which cannot be translated well directly, you'll need to think on your feet in such situations to understand the meaning and translate it well. So for some it is good practice for those situations.
I have no objection to learning idiomatic expressions. My complaint is with the methodology. Why force us to try and parse out colloquial meanings? Please, just give us the terms to memorize. The struggle I, and probably others, have with this instruction method is not necessary. It does not help us in any way comprehend the French language. We would be better served if we were just given the expression with its english correlation and told to memorize them. Free or not, this is not the best way to get someone to learn.
Everyone learns differently, so for you to say it is not the best way to teach someone or get someone to learn simply based on yourself is a bit much.
Duolingo is just a tool, use it as you see fit, use it in whatever way works for you and in conjunction with whatever other tools work for you.
Hi Sitesurf. Hope you can help. Since the switch to the crown system this idiom and about 2 others are the only ones that show up over and over and over when I practice the idiom section. Also now ALL the English to French translation exercises are gone. This is very disheartening. To learn idioms one has to be able to translate in both directions. I tried to leave a new comment on the troubleshooting board but got an error message saying they weren't accepting new comments. I hope you see this and can help! Thanks so much!
Hi Martina. I must confess I haven't tried the crown system yet. I thought that the aim of the game was, on the contrary, to promote less easy sentences and the production of sentences in French from English.
I, therefore, cannot answer you right now, but I'll try to inquire about this issue.
Hi Sitesurf. Thanks so much for responding. Somehow I got placed in Crown Level 1 in the idiom section even though I am at level 24 French overall and I have mastered the idiom section before. And I can't get out of it. I tried doing the idiom exercises at least 20 times with all answers correct and I am still at Crown level 1! This makes no sense and there seems no way to address it.
I tried to leave a new comment on the troubleshooting board but got an error message
Would it be this discussion?
saying they weren't accepting new comments.
Could you elaborate? I never saw such message.
What sometimes happens when you create a new discussion, is that the system returns you a "404 error" message. In such case it does not mean the discussion has not been published: it has been published but, it then failed to display it this time to you. When it happens, open the forum where you posted it (Troubleshooting forum in your case), open its "New" tab and your discussion will be around the top there.
Also now ALL the English to French translation exercises are gone.
What are your "crown-levels" for each units?
For example, for the idiom skill?
Note that the "crown-levels" are different from your "level" (the "24" next to your French flag on forums, for example).
I ask because the skills for which your have a low "crown-level" will on purpose give easy exercises (so no, or almost none, "answer in the target language" exercises) while, on the other hand, the skills for which your have a high "crown-level" should give you more difficult exercises.
Now, if you have no "answer in the target language" exercises for any skill where you are at high "crown-level", then it sounds like the contrary of what it's suppose to do hence I'd guess for a bug.
EDIT (2min later).
Your extend profile shows that you are "crown-level" 1 for the skill "Idioms and Proverbs". Hence it's normal that, for that skill, you have (almost) none exercice to translate into French. They'll start to appear as you'll increase your crown-level fro that skill.