"See you at sharp noon!" This is a typical expression of the French language that you have no doubt heard before and which can, if you are not the most punctual, sometimes sound like a slight threat from your interlocutor.
In this article, we shed some light on the astonishing origin of this expression. For that, head for the gardens of the Palais Royal, in the heart of Paris ...
The expression "sharp midday" is at the origin of an ingenious invention, that of the solar cannon.
If you have ever walked around the gardens of the Royal Palace, you may have noticed that there is a strange little cannon in the middle of the grass. If you thought, like us, that this was just a decorative statue ... miss! It is in fact a meridian. No, we are obviously not talking about sofas, but about a solar cannon, invented by Mr. Rousseau, watchmaker at the Beaujolais gallery.
The barrel, installed in 1786, has the particularity of being surmounted by a magnifying glass, itself placed in the axis of the meridian of Paris. This ingenious system makes it possible, when the weather is favorable, to concentrate the sun's rays, which, at midday, releases sufficient heat to ignite the fuse of the barrel and trigger a strong detonation.
Far from being a weapon of destruction, this cannon once allowed Parisians to put their watches back on time, at a time when automatic watches did not yet exist and when mechanical movements were not always very reliable and could to go wrong.
The gun became obsolete and stopped thundering in 1911, when France adopted the Greenwich Mean Time as a reference time.
But the cannon of the Royal Palace had not said its last word!
If in 1998 the original cannon was stolen, a replica was then installed in the gardens in 2002. Since 2011, every Wednesday at noon "sharp" we can again hear the detonation of this solar cannon. However today the cannon is triggered by an artificer and no longer by the simple heat of the sun, in order to be more precise.
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