Sunday, August 17, 2014

False Friends in English-French Discourse

 … some of the Google translations previously used by the owners were somewhat off the mark. For example, their starters included crudités (raw vegetables) translated as “crudeness”, and salade aux deux magrets as the mind-boggling “two breast salad” instead of “roast and smoked duck breast salad”. We also found mignons de porc (pork fillet) became “cute pig”, but the final straw had to be crottin de chèvre chaud (warm goat’s cheese) which was unappetisingly described as “warm goat dung”. 
From Neuville de Poitou, a small market town in western France, the Daily Telegraph's Duncan Webster broaches 'the thorny subject of “false friends”.'
What is a false friend? Well, in recent years, many Anglicisms have been adopted into the French language but they are not always used in ways we would expect. For example, a French town may have several parkings (not car parks), people erect tents on a camping (not a campsite) and may communicate by talkie-walkie.

Other uses of English words are less obvious. A French person having a makeover is going for a "relooking". They wear baskets (not trainers) on their feet, and use Scotch (tape) to seal a parcel. In English, too, we have misappropriated French words. For example, the French sit on canapés (their word for sofas), but would not sit on a commode, because that means a chest of drawers. It is, of course, necessary to explain these strange uses of our two languages and the resulting discussions are often a source of great amusement.