DE QUOI? | say what?
REtournons à nos moutons | Let's return to our sheep
If I had a euro for every time I've pulled this one out in a lesson...
I love this French saying as it not only evocative but effective as well.
Our French lessons here at Lingua Franca are casual affairs. Of course, we want our students to learn, and we're happy to report they do, but with groups of like-minded people passionate about French as well as countless other topics, we can sometimes become side-tracked. 'Retournons à nos moutons' (which literally means 'let's return to our sheep' or more colloquially 'let's get back to the subject') is a gentle and amusing way to remind everyone to come back to the topic at hand - le français*.
Apparently the saying originated from a 15th century French play called La Farce de Maître Pierre Pathelin. It tells the story of five characters, each more dishonest than the next, and includes a courtroom scene where the accused is instructed by his lawyer to answer all questions directed at him by saying 'Baaa' in an attempt to have him declared mentally instable. Sounds très drôle* indeed.
*French | *very funny