Beware les faux amis

This has nothing to do with people who pretend to be your friends and then stab you in the back but words in French and English which look as though they should have the same meaning but don't. Anyone who has said to a DIY shop assistant that "je veux un préservatif pour mes volets en bois" and got a very strange look will know what I mean!

This blog lists the most common traps. Anyone know any more?

One word I learned very early to be very wary off is "baiser". OK, un baiser is a kiss. But don't ask the girl or guy you've just met in the disco "est-ce que je peux te baiser" or you might get a slap from the girl and unwanted attentions from the guy!

Agonie does not mean agony.

Il est à l'agonie means he's dying, not he's in terrible pain.

Agony = supplice, douleur atroce.

Agoniser = to be dying - un homme agonisait dans le fossé = a man lay dying in the ditch

But agonir means to revile. Agonir quelqu'un = to hurl insults at someone

Dramatique = tragic. So does tragique! But a dramatic change is un changement spectaculaire and in a play, a dramatic effect is un effet théâtral.

Go figure!

on your last point, my response: j'aimerais...

How about

J'ai froid - I am cold - Je suis froide - I am frigid

J'ai chaud - I am hot = je suis chaud - I am hot stuff!

Hee hee, all funny stories. It so easy to get oneself in a mess isn't it? I think I am often insulting people and don't realise. I get so many frosty, blank looks when I think I have just said something pleasant. Including my husband. We have lots of malentendus.

I was once asked "est-ce que vous supportez" an individual in the village, thinking that it meant "do you support" that person, but, in actual fact, it means "do you put up with" that person in a derogetary sense.

I have already made the 'préservatif' mistake. Also, at a railway station, I was looking for the machine to use 'pour valider des billets', and when I asked an SNCF employee, I was told to use the machine marked 'composter'. When I started to tell the guy what composting meant in English, he kindly reminded me that we were not in England!!


Too right, Andrew. We learned the hard way. I remember saying to the headmaster of the school where I was an assistant that "ce type là-bas est bizarre" and getting a thorough telling-off because "type" was not acceptable in polite French!

I also told a maître d' in a posh Monaco restaurant that the food we were being served in the grand prix canteen was "dégueulasse". He was too well-mannered and well-trained to say anything but the look of horror on his face was enough!

Inferior, superior

or spécial - il est spécial celui-là (weird/bizarre)

but it's a great blog, Terry, just a shame non of that existed when we started in languages!

Exactly Tracy. The seven days of creation are Old Testament, therefore Jewish. They go to synagogue on Friday evening then celebrate the Shabbat (sabbath as we would say) in compliance with that. What we now call Sunday was the first day of their working week as it was too throughout the ancient Persian Empire, the Babylonians and the Germanic/Nordic countries. The Germanic Name became our Sunday, the day of the sun, then by their understanding the distance of each celestial body, Monday (moon), Tuesday (Tir or Tyr, Mars as in Mardi), Wednesday (Wotan or Odin, Mercury as in Mercredi), Thursday (Thor, Jovis in Latin hence Jeudi, Jupiter), Friday (Freya, Latin Veneris as Vendredi, Venus) and Saturday (Saturn). OK, the Norse people got the calculation of Venus wrong and put Friday in the wrong place! Uranus, Neptune and Pluto were not known, thank providence or our week may been very long. Also using the mnemonics My Very Elegant Mother Just Served Us Nine Pies, My Very Easy Method Just Speeds Up Naming Planets, Mercury's Volcanoes Erupt Mulberry Jam Sandwiches – Umbrellas Needed! or My Very Educated Mother Just Saved Us Nine Pence(Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto) you have the correct order. The Babylonians gave us astronomy as we still have it, if a bit further on. Anyway, the point is that the Sun always comes first, because in any creation theory that is relevant the sun rose on the first day and life began.

No Tracy, I don't know all of that but have a little book from our almost annual school visit to the Royal Greenwich Observatory whose director was an old boy of the school in those days. So I cribbed it from that. That is where it tells me that astronomically each cycle, or calendar week, in the western world begins on Sunday. France is different because after the 1792 purges of clergy and temporary suspension of religious celebration they 'abolished' Sunday but to drive the point home made Monday the first day of the week. A few countries have adopted that, but not many, so strictly speaking the week begins, not ends, on Sunday. As for the 'working week' which starts on Monday, that is a throwback to when bookkeeping was not carried out on Sundays, therefore people were paid from Monday to Saturday, the day of rest was actually the beginning of the week to rest them to prepare them for work. Oh such fun playing with trivia to prove that weekend is oxymoronic.

ha ha, Fabienne - my OH complains that I'm way too franchouillard :-O

The author didn't put "Sensible" in their list

Sensible : delicat, fragile, emotif, réagi au petits variations

Sensible : Having sound judgement


Terry, it might be because un "soupçon" (and "soupçonner") might exist without any base (gut feeling only) whereas une "suspicion" (suspecter) only exists when there is some or a beggining of ("commencement de preuve") evidence to prove it. It has become a legal term. A police officer has to "suspecter" but he cannot "soupçonner" only when arresting someone - at least in therory -:)

Andrew has been frenchsized all right -:)


Love it Veronique! Permission to use that phrase in the World Cup thread? ;-)

Yes, forgot that one. 'Going to the supermarket, my friend?' would be a lovely comment...

And 'basket' I ask them if vannerie is occupational therapy when they tell me they spend the w/e making basket