Sea/Snow/Sky and their French friends

I opened a book about Proust and found this : “Le temps n’est pas passé sur le hall du Grand Hôtel de Cabourg au bout duquel on voit, par la porte-fenêtre, la mer”.

“Time has not passed on the hall of the Grand Hotel of Cabourg after which one sees, through the French door, the sea”.

Obviously, the author made a tracking shot for the eye, from the hall to the large window then the sea…

In French, “la mer” arrives deliciously at the end of the phrase, opening it to the vast sky. As you know, words have a genre in French, the sea is a she

I said to myself that “la mer” sounds opened and grand and clear, a bit unlike “the sea”, which brakes a lot with its “S” – “Sea” sounds to me like a solid string.

Then I thought about the snow. Snow sounds GREAT for fallen, thick snow. But when it flies from the sky in magic light meandering flakes, I prefer the French one : La neige !

Sky” is great for the sky. It sounds big and clear. The French word is “le ciel“… it’s more pale…

Pépite is greater than nugget. L’Or is brighter than gold. But wood is good, it’s sounds like wood. We say “bois“, alright. Some other words are cool in both languages : l’acier (steel), both are solid and almost blazing, right?

 

Of course, this means nothing. I touch here the infinite, fractal and subtle differences between your native language and the learned one. I can get the words, but I can’t really get their radioactivity, or tiny ones, through movies and conversations.

What do I see on this picture? Curtains/Rideaux. Plates/Assiettes. Clouds/Nuages. Candles/Bougies.

Candle makes me see the flame. Bougie makes me feel the wax. Ahhh it’s complicated!!

 

Thanks for reading!

(and sorry for my bad English)

 

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Cloche – French idioms with “bell”

Here are a few bell French idioms :

Déménager à la cloche de bois (“to move at the wooden bell”) is to go out without paying. To do a moonlight flit.

Etre sous cloche (“to be under a bell”) is to be preserved, protected, with a negative sound to it. To be put under a cover.

Quelle cloche ! (“what a bell !”) : what a numpty, what an idiot!

Se taper la cloche (“to help myself with the bell”) is to have a real feast.

Avoir un autre son de cloche (“to have another bell sound”) is to get another story, another version of it.

Se faire sonner les cloches (“to have my bells rung”) is to get a good telling off.

 

So a cloche is a bell, but also an idiot (as a name and an adjective), and also a dome (a bell cover).

A bell tower is named “un clocher” (say : “closhey”), which is often used to say a village. If someone is attached to his village, il est attaché à son clocher (his bell tower).

The verb “clocher” (it could be “to bell”) means it’s not quite right. Il y a quelque chose qui cloche : something is wrong.

Un clochard is a tramp, a homeless person.

Avoir un esprit de clocher (“to have a bell tower spirit”) is when you want to stay with the opinions of a group.

 

Voilà ! Have fun!

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Words : Friends/Enemies?

Words : Friends/Enemies? This subject covers many disciplines and would need a few books to study, so, let’s say it’s a pack of seeds for a conversation.

We all meet this idea that words are reductive. They are put on things like stickers, making them simpler than they are.

It’s this idea that when you “labeled” at thing, it become true, then it’s fixed, and cages are not far.

It happens all the time, even on the lowest levels, like “Is this good or bad?”. It’s much more complicated, probably…

Words prevent things and events to be seen as complex, changing, moving and trying.

When you learn another language, you keep noticing weird things, like the fact that a word in one language never completely fit a word in the other one. Each word is charged culturally, and I own a 400 pages book only on this subject!

Travail in French is not exactly Work or Labor (proof is you have two words where only languages have one – Arbeit, in German). Labor contains a part of suffering and difficulties, right? Etc…

Now let’s have fun with Frontière : Frontier, Border, Bounday. Oh well…

Knowing this, I wrote this article because…

I watched my cat, who was watching me. I was asking myself (like many of us) :

What does she think? – and what does she think, since she does not use words in her head?

 

Hmm we blog, we talk, we email, we text, we share our day at dinner time : words are huge. Our thoughts are made of words!

Then I went to this area : Words are friends. They are powerful and pleasant tools, and there’s nothing better in life that a good conversation on a balcony with your best friend you have (with a glass of wine, of course). Words become, then, vessels for intelligence, sparkling ideas : friendly tools we use as virtuosos. Time flies.

…knowing that they are tricky and labeling

Find your good partner, talk about this : “Are words our enemies or our friends?”.

I’ll ask Wittgenstein, waiting for you answer in the comments.

Thank you! Thanks for reading!

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Vial & Stoop : Types of black holes in language

I’m French and I write in English – I make mistakes and I discover new words everyday.

When I read an article or a short story, I understand what happens, and I admit I don’t translate anymore.

But, well, I always meet new insects, which are really puzzling at times…

Today I met “Vial“. Never seen this word but I guessed. A little bottle. In French we call this “une fiole”, which I find funny. Same structure : vial/fiole. OK.

Stoop” was trickier. First, it’s a noun AND a verb. A doorstep (“perron”, in French), and also “to bend”.

There, here am I questioning English Gods : why do you have to stoop, if you have to bend or even to bow?? Can stoop be replaced by to crouch or to squat?

Worse : as a metaphor or a figurative sense, to demean, to do something “below one’s status, standards, or morals”. “S’abaisser à”.

OK, but also to slant (to stoop a bottle of wine?) – then what is to lean? – to catch a prey for an eagle (“the bird stooped and seized a salmon” – un piqué), to submit (“stooped by death” or “this people does not stoop to Rome”) – even to degrade?

 

Thus, when you read “not your language”, you see holes. Little ones can be filled by contexts, other ones make you make a face, pick a dictionary, and go travel in language, in an awe, for twenty minutes. You should try French while I study the word “slew” (4 nouns, 7 verbs, pfff…).

 

At the end, I found : Stoop : “a vessel for holding liquids; a flagon”. Come on!

Hmmm. Fetch me a stoop of liquor, please. Two new words and I’m done. Back to bed. With my book!

Thanks for reading!

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French idioms to say “It was easy!”

I realized we have in France many ways to say “It’s easy!”? Piece of cake? Yes. Kind of.

Here are a few :

  • C’est un jeu d’enfant : child’s game
  • C’est du gâteau : it’s some cake
  • C’est du nougat : …
  • Facile comme bonjour : easy like hello
  • Comme sur des roulettes : like on little wheels
  • Les doigts dans le nez : fingers in the nose
  • Comme qui rigole : like who laughs
  • Bête comme chou : stupid like cabbage (more like “dead easy”)
  • En moins de deux : in less than two (fast and easy)

 

I found English ones on the web – it’s a lark, a cinch, a snap, a pushover or easy as pie (which one do you use?) – but also other countries’. And they are funny!

  • In Spain : it’s like sew and sing
  • In Netherland : it’s a little egg
  • In Belgium : it’s sliced bread
  • In Romania : it’s a flower on ear

 

Awweeee!

Thanks for reading! Have a nice day!

 

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Do you have a cow? – “La rate au court bouillon” & a few other French idioms

On va quand même pas se mettre la rate au court-bouillon!

It’s our way to say something like “Bahh we won’t get worked up/have a cow!”. It means in French : “We won’t put our spleen in the stock”. Yes the bodily organ in the broth…

Well obviously we won’t worry to much for this…

 

On n’est pas sortis de l’auberge

We have big problems to deal with, therefore “We’re not close to be out of the inn”.

Yeah, “We’re not out of the woods yet”…

 

A la Saint-Glinglin

Well, there’s no Saint Glinglin in France (or anywhere), therefore it means : “When pigs can fly”.

Never

 

Ça mange pas de pain

For “It can’t do any harm”, we say “It doesn’t eat any bread”. Makes sense?

You can always try…

 

La confiture aux cochons

To give jam to the pigs is our “To throw pearls before swine”. Yours is better, right?

It’s useless, lost energy

 

Thanks for reading!

 

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Don’t learn French, it’s a mess – Part 4 : Letters you don’t say

You have in English a few letters “you don’t say”, like the K in knife. If French, if you try to speak what your read, you’re dead.

We love useless letters. AND we sprinkled all this with difficulties.

We love the final useless S, and you have to say Paree for Paris (BUT you have to say it for the city of Reims). I know…

Forget the P and the S in Temps (time), and don’t say the C in Tabac (tobacco). Haut (up) is pronunced “Ho”.

Imagine you have to say “I want” : Je veux. OK, you say “Je ve”, that’s all.

“A knot”? Un nœud – just say “Un ne”.

PFfffff…

Monsieur” is worse, because… Oh forget it!

Other cities? You say all the letters of Brest, but forget the final S for Orléans or Calais, OK? Metz : says “mess”. Bruxelles? Well, some say Bruxel, some others Brussel. Rahhhh!

We don’t say the M in Automne, we don’t say the P in Compter (to count), we don’t say the D in Grand or in Dernier, or the G in Long. But we have to say it if it’s féminine : Dernière, “the feminine last”…

Yes, the genre. A car in feminine. Oh hell… that’s another article, right? 🙂

Thanks for reading! Bonne nuit !

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