Thursday, October 13, 2011


French has a number of well-known pitfalls for English-speakers.
Words which look as though they obviously mean one thing, but actually mean something else.

Probably the most frequently encountered is "eventuellement" which looks as though it should mean "eventually" (sooner or later; in the long run) but actually means "possibly" (maybe or maybe not).

Recently, I was confused when several Government Ministers started talking about plans to reduce deficits being "intangible".
I naturally assumed this French word meant the same as its identical-looking English counterpart (immaterial, hard to grasp or define) but that didn't make sense.

A selection of dictionaries showed that whilst basically meaning "untouchable", that can be used either in the sense of "immaterial & hard to grasp" or as "sacred & must not be altered".
The Ministers were using the second sense.

How can you spend 35 years immersed in a language & still discover blind spots?

Parting thot: "Language is the source of misunderstandings." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery