Drowning in France

Every day I read the newspaper from the part of France where I used to live - La Dépêche du Midi, and I discover that drowning isn’t fatal in France. I regularly come across incidents where people have « noyé » but are in hospital in a critical condition etc.

I certainly recall occasions when a drowning man has been saved by other swimmers, lifeguards…
Thus, he’s been drowning but hasn’t drowned…
there are other instances when someone can be resuscitated… although thought to be dead at first glance…

I think it’s either this year or last… that rise in numbers of incidents to do with bathers drowning/nearly drowning… has highlighted the need for children to be taught to swim properly. A useful and possibly life-saving skill to have.

Interesting to see how the phrases differ…

Learning to swim was compulsory when my kids were in primaire and my DIL who teaches in primaire says it is still so down here. Possibly where schools are miles from any pool it maybe different but mine used to have to go to a nearby hotel which had an outdoor pool and then eventually they transferred to the new sports centre. Used to make me laugh as I used to volunteer to go and help the kids get dry and dressed and some of the towels were no bigger than a face flannel. My kids also did sailing in primaire, hence the need for all of them to learn swimming. My two year old grandson has been in the water since a few months old, he now just throws himself in with papa or maman standing by in case of problems but absolutely no fear at all

It is not only non-swimmers who may be at risk.

The attached article describes issues with hydrocution - thermal shock.

There are of course other potential dangers with swimming in unsupervised lakes and rivers:
currents, submerged objects etc

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It’s the language that interested me. For instance, « un homme se noye dans la Mayenne et décède », « un homme de 53 ans meurt noyé ».
If you “drown” you are dead. But not in France.

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To say nothing of the germs and diseases you can also pick up. A friend many years ago went swimming in a local gravel pit and because he had recent cuts and grazes on his legs, contracted a very nasty infection indeed.

Noyer and se noyer generally mean to drown (and die) but they can also just mean be submerged and overwhelmed so although personally I might say a frôlé la noyade for a survivor of sinking and breathing in water I can quite see why a journalist wouldn’t bother.

You could think noyer le poisson might be to gild the lily but it is actually to confuse someone with an overwhelming quantity of pointless details.


Thank you. Language is interminably fascinating. How difficult is it to become totally fluent in another language!

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…as long as you are not dying to find out

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