THE FRENCH LANGUAGE: the delights, the quirks

 Outsiders (I believe we are called les etrangers)  will know what I’m talking about – the ups, downs and the sideways.  Take the accents in this language, something seldom used in English.

Le bâtiment (building) has a nice little roof on it.

Célèbre has celebratory firecrackers over it.

La flèche (arrow) is somehow sharper than its English equivalent.

Déteste feels stronger that detest.

                    An angle on Angèle

I take the liberty of mentioning some of the delights of Claudie’s English.  She speaks more formally than I do and adds a touch of the literary, at times.  For her a window gives onto the place.  You push off the light and close the television.  And the baddie in the Policier aggresses someone.  If you’re uncertain then you don’t know what’s expecting you.

French, you soon discover, is an uncharted territory of false friends.  Or do I forgive the English language for evolving borrowed words in unexpected ways?

Je suis blessé does not mean “I am blessed”.  It means “I am wounded”.

Négligé is not black, sexy and made of silk.  It means “neglected”.

A woman (in English) who is petite is not merely short.  So too, in English, petty is not merely dimensionally challenged.

      Painting the Giraffe

Idioms in any language are fascinating, especially when they become a touch surreal.  In Afrikaans, for example, the die is cast is expressed as “the bullet has passed through the church”.

“A kettle of crabs” in French is something like a hornet’s nest and to be avoided.

“To paint the giraffe” is doing something that really does not have to be done.

“The marriage of carp and hare”  means to bring incompatibles together vainly

And the one that applies to me  − “To speak French like a Spanish cow”.  Enough said.

                Marriage of Carp and Hare


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

April, 2017



Claudie A. L. Mader

P.Desalmand, Y. Stalloni:  200 expressions expliquées (Chen, 2013)


Claudie by Ise La

200 expressions expliquées


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