My first post in this new series is an easy one. Somebody, a few months ago, got here with the search query: french for hedging your bets. Now I’m not going to pretend that I can speak French (though I have tried before), but I do have the internet (that’s kind of tech-dramatic irony – often the first phrase that people learn in a foreign language is: sorry, I don’t speak X/Y/Z – very speach act theory), so I have found out for that person, whoever they were.
According to wordreference.com, it is:
se couvrir, protéger ses arrières, user de précautions, limiter les risques.
Of course you’ll probably notice that all of them are somewhat unsatisfactory. Se couvrir is obviously just to cover yourself, which seems more cowardly than the measured, and (potentially) ethical hedge one’s bets. Protéger ses arrières is just to protect your arse. To make it cruder, user de précautions seems to be a reference to contraception, which is in direct contradiction with the speculative nature of hedging one’s bets. Sure, they’re hedged, but you still make the bet. In the bedroom, to hedge one’s bets might be something like using pas de précautions, but using the ‘rhythm method’ instead (which, incidentally, is the favoured method of conservative poets). Meanwhile limiter les risques has no idiomatic force. You see, hedging your bets has physical objects hidden in it. First of all, is the hedge (which as well as the fence, gives a nod to the hog), second is the near inclusion of ‘bed’ in ‘bet’. Perhaps this is why, despite its absolute semantic failure, user de precautions, with its coy glance towards the pharmacy, is the best translation. Or you could always just cover your arse and use the English (entre parenthèses).