En flagrant délit

Au violon :

Le violon désigne la prison en général, ou, plus précisément, une cellule du poste de police, avec grille, où sont enfermées provisoirement les personnes prises en flagrant délit :

‘Le violon’ designates prison in general or, more exactly, a cell with a metal grille in a police station where are held, provisionally, those caught in the act/caught red-handed. (Note: In England the phrase ‘en flagrant délit’, on the whole, suggests a sexual connotation but here it refers, of course, to an act of theft or violence.)

“Crainquebille, dont l’arrestation fut maintenue, passa la nuit au violon et fut transféré, le matin, dans le panier à salade, au dépôt.” :

“Crainquebille, who was arrested, spent the night in the cells and was transferred, in the morning, in the police van (Note: literally ‘le panier à salade’ is ‘a salad-shaker’), to the jail.”

Anatole France : Crainquebille (1904).

Taken from: ‘Pourquoi dit-on ? 2012’ by Delphine Gaston

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