- Quand l‘auteur des Précieuses ridicules apprit que sa troupe avait perdu l’appui de son mécène, sa consternation fut grande. (When the author of Les Précieuses ridicules learned that his troupe had lost the support of its patron, his consternation was great.)
Commentary: Molière is meant. His first great success in Paris was Les Précieuses ridicules (1659).
- Avec cette condemnation venant de Rome, l’aigle de Meaux avait définitivement triomphé du cygne de Cambrai. (With this condemnation coming from Rome, the eagle of Meaux had definitively triumphed over the swan of Cambrai.)
Commentary: Bossuet (1827-1704) and Fénelon (1651-1715) are meant. Bossuet was the bishop of Meaux, and in the Quietist controversy a fierce opponent of the mild-mannered and poetic Fénelon, bishop of Cambrai.
Of course, periphrasis can also be used for things…
- l’astre de la nuit (the moon)
- l’astre du jour (the sun)
- le roi des animaux (The lion)
- la neuvieme art (graphic novels [la bande-dessinée])
- le plat pays (la Belgique)1
To be sure, periphrase can serve legitimate stylistic purposes, even in French; for a list of the possibilities, with examples, see the Wikipédia article Périphrase. In the present file, however, I merely want to point out that periphrase is fairly often used in formal French prose only to avoid repeating a name or using a personal pronoun.
More examples will be added.
- “Le chanteur du plat pays” would be a periphrase for: Jacques Brel.