I am trying to understand, in English, two French phrases from the Jean Rhys book After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie. I am reading this novel within the Jean Rhys: The Complete Novels. The quote below is from page 256 of the omnibus volume.

The setting is an evening in a café somewhere around Paris in the 1920s or 1930s.

An old chap at the next table was holding forth about Anglo Saxons, and the phrase, 'cette hypocrisie froide' came back and back into what he was saying. The word 'froide' sounded vicious and contemptuous. Mr Horsfield wanted to join in the argument, and say, 'Look here, you're quite wrong. Anyhow, you're not altogether right. What you take to be hypocrisy is sometimes a certain caution, sometimes genuine—though ponderous̛childishness, sometimes a mixture of both. '

'Ça vous écoeure à la fin, ' jabbered the old chap. Rather a nice-looking old chap, too. All the more a pity.

I think cette hypocrisie froide means something like this cold hypocrisy, while Ça vous écoeure à la fin means something like They (the Anglo Saxons) disgust you (vous) to the end. That's probably a bad translation, but Google Translate says "It sickens you at the end", which doesn't seem much better to me.

  • 1
    Thank you, I have fixed up the tagging on this question. The tag [translation] should only be used when asking about the act of translation, not when merely requesting a translation. Using [meaning] is sufficient to ask for the meaning of a non-English phrase.
    – bobble
    Feb 23, 2021 at 22:07

1 Answer 1


Your interpretation of the first phrase is correct. Cette hypocrisie froide does mean this cold or cold-blooded hypocrisy. The stereotype here is that of the cold, reserved British against the warm, open French. The Frenchman sees the British stiff upper lip as a sign of hypocrisy. Mr Horsfield thinks, instead, that it indicates either a fear of being too open about emotions (caution), or an immaturity preventing their being handled in an adult way (childishness). The idea of cold British reserve was of great thematic importance in Rhys generally. The contrast between the warmth of her birthplace, Dominica, and the cold of England is at issue both literally and metaphorically in her novels and stories, including After Leaving Mr Mackenzie. This episode is one of many that evokes this contrast.

The second phrase is correctly translated by Google. Ça is singular: it disgusts you. It would not be translated they. It's also doubtful it would be used to refer to Anglo-Saxons generally; ils would be more natural, as ceux (the plural form of ça) would be very specific, these (indicated) people, not a general set of people. The antecedent of ça is the British reserve or hypocrisy, or British behavior. Also, as Tsundoku mentioned in a comment to your question, to the end is not an accurate rendition of à la fin. To the end suggests all along, while the French phrase means ultimately, eventually, or as Google has it, at the end.

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