Saturday, May 31, 2008

Les Faux Amis

False Friends, is the phrase used by the French to describe english words that are similar to french words, but have a different meaning. They trip us all up.

Here are some of the false friends that I found troublesome.

Fixer in french means to fasten, not to repair. If you want something repaired you need it to be either 'depanné' or 'reparé'. Any mechanical object that is broken down is 'en panne', as opposed to 'cassé' which leans towards the sense of a broken object.

When eating, if you are full, you are not 'plein'. Petrol tanks can be 'plein' and in agricultural terms, any livestock that is pregnant is 'plein'. This is why english speaking women telling their hosts 'Je suis pleine' brings a smirk. You can rather say 'J'ai assez mangé' or 'Je cale'.

Here's a good one: 'expérience' in french means experiment, but if someone is 'experimenté' it means they are experienced!!

If you are out walking and you see a sign warning that the path is 'accidenté' it means that the path is uneven. Tho' that could lead to an accident after all.

If the French say that someone is being a 'comedian' they do not mean that they are being funny, only that they are acting. A comedian is a 'comique'

And to end this issue, (coz I've got tons of these) A few years ago, while I was still in the UK, I was talking to a french colleague on the phone. It was summer 2003, stinking hot. I said to him 'Mais vous avez le air-con chez vous?' assuming that trendy young french businessmen would use the english short version for air-conditioning. He explained that air conditioning is called 'climatisation' and that 'air' means 'to have the appearance of' and 'con' means 'bloody idiot', but stronger.

A bit like the Americans, we are divided by a common language.

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At 9:18 pm, Blogger dND said...

There so many pitfalls we can fall into aren't there. A case of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing.


At 7:35 pm, Blogger travelling, but not in love said...

I love these...I find myself using `repair`instead of `fix`all the time in english now....odd, how our use of a mother language changes as we use it less.

At 7:24 pm, Blogger The Lehners in France said...

I did the "Je suis plein" thing when we first arrived, never again.

I love the Anglais in the Bricos asking for "preservative a bois".

As you have made me giggle in the past preservatives in food is sooo funny.
Debs x
P.S How's Callum?

At 7:35 pm, Blogger pecheur said...

Great article. And how many of these mistakes have I made!


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