I'm watching an American Dad episode (S9E17), and one of the characters (Francine) say this sentence:

Well, come on. With a head trauma like this, you should get right into bed. It's like they say, "starve a fever, sleep a concussion"

I really don't get the meaning of this joke (i think it's a joke...), can someone help me to understand, or to translate it in French?


Firstly - I'm not a doctor, but I would suggest that if you do feel the urge to sleep with a concussion that there's someone to look after you!

This comes from the phrase feed a cold, starve a fever, which expresses the belief that eating more cures a cold, eating less cures a fever.

I'm not sure how much truth there is to this, but Wiktionary has some translations, including French:

nourrir un rhume et affamer une fièvre

With my rudimentary French, I'm sure that's a literal translation, though.

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Yes, it is a joke.

There is an expression Starve a fever and feed a cold. This comes from an old wives tale about treatment of illness.

Sleeping a concussion is a play on the saying.

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    Just to clarify, part of the point of this joke is it's ironic nature: The last thing that a person with a concussion should do is to sleep, instead they should be seeking medical attention ASAP. – RBarryYoung May 12 '14 at 5:06

This is a twist on a folk proverb “Feed a cold, starve a fever”—that is, you should eat when you have a cold, fast when you have a fever.

(Some medical authorities take issue with this, but that doesn’t come into play here.)

The joke, such as it is, is that Francine makes up a new second half of the proverb to lend authority to her immediate purpose, and betrays its factitiousness by deploying sleep in an unconventional sense—sleep is used as a transitive verb only in the phrase sleep it off.

To translate it into French would require you to find a corresponding French proverb to mangle.

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    Additionally, there is the popularly held belief (the truth or untruth of which is irrelevant) that going to sleep with a concussion is dangerous, potentially fatal. – Jolenealaska May 11 '14 at 14:11
  • @Jolenealaska I'd never heard that one. That makes it even funnier, in a gruesome sort of way. – StoneyB on hiatus May 11 '14 at 14:28
  • I'm really surprised that's new to you, I even remember Hawkeye saying it on MASH. Here it is debunked on Cracked. I'm pretty sure the writers of American Dad were intending to reference that wives-tale. – Jolenealaska May 11 '14 at 14:43
  • @Jolenealaska Well, I played drums instead of football, so perhaps my mother never had occasion to cite it! – StoneyB on hiatus May 11 '14 at 14:49
  • Percussion and concussion require different modals. With percussion, you can't sleep; with concussion, you shouldn't sleep. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jan 2 '15 at 12:35

I'm french too, so my answer is just what came out after some searches.

I think it's a detourned version of the old adage: "Starve a fever, feed a cold.". It was a popular believe that not eating when you have a fever is bad and it make the cold worst. Today, we know that certain foodstuffs (like vitamins) help to fight disease.

In french, I can't find a similar proverb. Maybe a more or less literal translation on the tone of an adage will do the job, like "Fièvre sans manger, commotion évitée". It sound like a bullshit proverb like the original text.

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I think you guys are not aware that there is a myth that says you shouldn't sleep after a concussion. So in this case, it's a joke showing Francine is not so smart (or maybe the writers are not aware that this is just a myth)


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  • Welcome to ELL. This does not really answer the question. Maybe you could visit the Help Centre before you answer another question. – None Apr 23 '17 at 19:16

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