se tromper

A bakery in Villedieu (Vaucluse). Don't you love it when the name ("Fournier") ressembles the trade ("boulangerie")?  Proof that destiny ne se trompe pas. Do you have any examples of names that match the métier? Thanks for leaving your examples in the comments box.

SE TROMPER (suh-trom-pay) reflexive verb

    : to be mistaken, to be wrong

Examples & Sound file (click the links below):
tout le monde peut se tromper = anyone can make a mistake
se tromper dans ses calculs = to mess up in one's calculations
se tromper de numéro
= to dial the wrong number
Download Se tromper . Download Se tromper

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Do you know of any more examples of "se tromper". What is a (funny, remarkable...) mistake that you have made... in language or in life? Please use the comments box to share your thoughts with other readers.

COURRIER in a French Life...
I received the following letter from Larry Krakauer, after posting James's story a few weeks back. Larry writes:

I very much enjoyed the story by James Wilson in today's edition.  His discussion of the use of tu vs. vous, and the relative formality of some of the older French, reminded me of a true story of my own...
Larry's story begins:

 "Monsieur L'Oiseau"

In the summer of 1960, when I was 18, I made my first trip to France.  It was a language study trip with an organization called "Classrooms Abroad". I spent the summer in the city of Pau, in the south of France.  We lived with French families, and spent our mornings studying French at the Université de Bordeau à Pau.  During the afternoon, we were free to do whatever we wanted.  It was this trip that awakened in me a lifetime love of France and the French language.

Before starting our first class, we were greeted by the dean of the university, a certain Monsieur L'Oiseau.  It's easy for me to remember his name nearly 50 years later, because he had a thin pointed nose that very much resembled the beak of a bird.  His welcoming speech was peppered with examples of the imparfait du subjonctif, making it fairly incomprehensible to the members of our group, fresh out of high school French.  Once our classes started, we didn't see the dean any more.

Fast-forward to the end of the summer, when our group threw a goodbye dinner party for the faculty, and the dean once again put in an appearance.  The dinner was excellent, and the wine flowed freely.  Monsieur L'Oiseau, at the head of the table, became involved in a discussion about the relative
formality of the French professors compared with American teachers.  The university faculty all referred to each other using their titles, and the dean was always referred to as Monsieur le Doyen.  The Americans at the table noted that back in the States, teachers were very informal, and
interacted with each other on a first-name basis.

Having had quite a few glasses of wine, Monsieur le Doyen apparently decided to try this out.  Looking across the table at a professor named Monsieur Gautier, Monsieur L'Oiseau called out, in a rather loud voice, "Pierre!" Monsieur Gautier did not immediately react to this, so the dean persisted, calling out again "Pierre!"  This time, he spoke loudly enough to get everyone's attention, and a hush fell over the table.

Monsieur Gautier looked back at the dean with an expression of confusion on his face, and stammered, "Vous . vous  parlez à moi, Monsieur?"  The dean replied, "Eh bien, oui, Pierre!"  Monsieur Gautier then said, "Mais... mais..  Je m'appelle Maurice!"

Perhaps the dean could be forgiven for getting Monsieur Gautier's first name wrong, since he had never before had occasion to use it.  They had only been working together for thirty years.

Larry Krakauer, a retired engineer (http://home.comcast.net/~lkrakauer/), organizes a free conversation group every other Wednesday evening, in the vicinity of Wayland, Massachusetts (USA). He vacations in France with his wife Margie, who studies French with a private tutor.

If you missed James Wilson's story about his dear friend, Marie, you can view it here. PLUS! James is sharing his helpful tips on language learning. Do not miss them: Download "Tips For Foreign Language Learning" by James Wilson !

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Paris Events~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 In association with the Red Wheelbarrow Bookstore, Robert Camuto will be signing his new book
"Corkscrewed: Adventures in the New French Wine Country". The book launch with take place on Thursday Dec. 4; 6-8 pm at Juveniles Bistrot à vins: 47, rue de richelieu, 75001 Paris Tel: 01 42 97 46 49

~~~~~~~~~~~Gifts & More~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
French film: My Father's Glory

French cuisine: Fleur De Sel De Camargue French Sea Salt

French games: Mille Bornes: First published in 1962, Mille Bornes (pronounced "meel born," French for "milestones") is an auto racing card game whose object, for each team of two players, is to be the first to complete a series of 1,000-mile trips.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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I am usually a bit nervous before ordering my meal here in Paris, but that night I was all set, Je voudrais . . .
So when the waiter approached I said, very assuredly, "Je suis un polet roti" - without batting any eye, he turned to my husband and said, in perfect English, "And what would like sir?" I am now known by my husband as
"The hot chick from the US".

lyn kimber

Before moving to France, I used to meet up each week with a French girl for conversation. We were in the café, discussing my new puppy,and it seemed logical to me, as the puppy is female, to call it 'une chiotte', instead of 'un chiot'.The giggling told me that I had indeed me tromped!


My mother's gynecologist is named Dr. Papp. That one always cracks me up!

Patricia Gilbert

My high school cooking teacher was named Mrs. Kitchen.

Holly Hokanson

In the same vein (no pun intended!) as the last comment--my grandmother was in the hospital being treated by a Dr.Doctor. C'est vrai!


Many years ago, I stayed with a friend in a suburb of Rome. My first time to go anywhere without her, coming home after dark, I got off the bus at the wrong stop. Fortunately, she lived near a landmark -- a drive-in cinema -- so I found my way back by asking the first passerby for directions and then confirming them with other people as I went along, always asking if I was headed in the right direction for "il cinema collo schermo all'aria aperta" (the cinema with the screen outside). Everyone confirmed the directions without so much as a smile until the final people I asked, a couple of teenagers, who grinned and said "Si, si -- il drive in..."

On an earlier occasion, as a student, the verb "to iron" (stirare) totally escaped me in an oral translation class so, since many Italian and French words are similar, I forged hopefully on with my invented verb "repassare" at which the instructor laughed and said, "Qui non si parla fritaliano!" (We don't speak Fritaliano here).



Here is a selection of French "noms de famille" (surnames) that came from "métier" (trade, craft, profession).

-> boulanger (baker). BOULANGER
In the Middle Ages, the “boulanger” was the "fournier”. In those days, the “fournier” used to bake bread for the villagers, in a communal oven (“four”). FOURNIER, FOURNEYRON, FOURNET. ***Thank you Kristin for the lovely photo!

-> boucher (butcher). BOUCHER, BOUCHIER, BOUCHIEZ
-> potier (potter). POTIER, POTTIER, POUTHIER
-> barbier (barber). BARBIER, LEBARBIER
-> chapelier (hatter). CHAPELIER, CAPELIER, CAPLIER

-> marchand (trader, shopkeeper, stallholder). MARCHAND, LEMARCHAND
-> forestier, garde-forestier (forester). FORESTIER, FORESTIEZ, LEFORESTIER
-> charpentier (carpenter). CHARPENTIER. In the Middle Ages, the “charpentier” was “le chapuis”. CHAPUIS, CHAPUZET

-> cordonnier (cobbler, and used to be a shoemaker). CORDONNIER.
-> meunier (miller). MEUNIER, MEUGNIER, MOUNIER
-> clerc (clerk, cleric, scholar). LECLERC, LECLERCQ, DECLERCQ.

-> berger (shepherd). BERGER, BERGERET, BERGERAT.
-> chabrier (goat keeper in the Auvergne region). CHABRIER.
-> le forgeron (blacksmith). FORGERON.
In the Middle Ages, the “forgeron” was le “fèvre” (latin faber). The surname LEFÈVRE is very common in France. Also: LEFÈBVRE, LEFÈBURE, FABER, FAVRE, FABRE, FABREAU, ...


Our nearby (and very popular) urologist is one of our best resources for vasectomies. His name? Dr. Stopp.


I love James' story... so typical!... dear Monsieur Loiseau! I think such 'formalities' in France started to lose their grips in the last 3 decades of the XXth century, which doesn't mean they have completely disappeared.
“se tromper”, reflexive verb. Other examples:

-> se tromper sur les intentions de quelqu'un = to misunderstand somebody's intentions.
-> se tromper sur quelqu'un = to be wrong about somebody.
-> Il n'y a pas à s'y tromper = There is no mistake about it.
-> Qu'on ne s'y trompe pas! = Make no mistake about it!

-> Oh la la! Je me suis trompé sur toute la ligne! =
Oh dear! I am completely wrong!


Mary Story was a Theme Reader in our school district.


When I was a kid, I went to a dentist named Dr. Hollar. (No kidding.)

Our vet hired an assistant named Dr. Lamb.


Growing up I thought my mother chose people to work for us by their names because her seamstress' name was Mrs. Cutright and our dentist's name was Dr. Spitler.


My vet was called Dr. Barkan.

Julie Schorr

Hi Kristin,
My mother knew a surgeon in Kansas City, Missouri named Dr. Slaughter!!!
Julie Schorr


That's a funny story.
When I first moved to France 17 years ago, my future mother-in-law told me I could tutoie her, beings that I barely spoke French. My fiancé and I moved to Paris and I signed up for intensive French language lessons. With several months of these intensive French classes under the belt, my fiancé et I came back to Provence to visit his mother. Proud of my new language skills, I used the vous with my mother-in-law when speaking with her.
She acted strangely distant from me on this visit.
When we got back to Paris, my phone rang and my sister-in-law was on the line to ask me why I was mad at my mother-in-law. I had no idea what she was talking about. My sil pointed out that I had reverted back to vous-voie-ing my mil after almost a year of tu_toie-ing, which apparently just isn't done unless you are angry with someone. I just wanted to show my mother-in-law some respect. All of my friends in France vous'ed their mil out of respect, I just wanted to do the same.
Needless to say, we are back to the tu-toie after a few laughs and explanations.

bev s

WE have trouble keeping specialists in our city so he's no longer here, but until recently Dr. P. Goode, urologist, practised here. We still have Dr. K Wagner, veterinarian
Bev S


In New Carlisle, IN, there used to be a business called Amen Funeral Home. And not too far from there, many years ago a school was named for someone whose last name was Fail. Fail School. That surely is starting out on the wrong foot.


My first language is Russian. When in 1978 I immigrated to the USA my English was very poor. One day shopping for "four-ply tires" I asked for foreplay ones.


There are lots of stories about Americans who go to France and say (usually over a meal) that they shy away from "préservatifs."


what's une chiotte?

dorothy dufour

For many years, my husband's dentist was Dr. Friesen.

Unrelated story: When I was a bride in Quebec, using my school French and learning the local patois, my brother in law coached me in the following exchange while we were all dancing at a vielle:
Him: Comment va ton francais, Dorothe?"
Me: Oh je parle francais comme une botte sauvage!"
Translation: A torn boot.

When we returned to BC six years later, I often mentioned "le grand menage", and my unilingual mother called it " Le grand fromage".


In Canberra, Australia, there is an accountant named Ledger.


-many years ago while ice skating with my then 4 year old daughter I fell and shattered my wrist. After two weeks of agony the Dr. I'd been seeing said I needed an Orthopedic Surgeon- pins would be needed to hold my wrist bones together. So onto the list of Orthopedic surgeons in my insurance plan I went. Soon I came to the name Dr. Butcher. I made appointment straight away. How bad could he be right. "The man must have a great sense of humor", I thought. He did. My wrist is nearly as good as new.

Mary E

A man who specializes in vermiculture - he sells worm boxes and live worms - goes on the internet by the nickname of "The Worm Guy." His actual last name meshes with his profession perfectly. It's "Gach," which, as any Star Trek fan will tell you, is a Klingon delicacy consisting of worms, served live.

A French gaff story: when asked to name his profession, my husband, who had studied French for maybe two months at that point, nervously said, "Je suis ingénue," instead of "Je suis ingénieur."


John - "chiotte" is a feminine word for dog. Like in English, in the circles of dog breeders, it's usage is common. But it takes on a different tone and meaning when used in every day conversaation.


To answer John's question, une chiotte is a toilet, only it's a bit more crude, like, well s...house, but we don't have an exact word. It still sounds better in French, but maybe only to English speakers.


(Attention:très vulgaire!) When I moved to Paris as a very young woman, not speaking french yet, I told the bank manager very seriously "Je voudrais ouvrir un compte", unfortunately I mispronounced "compte" like "con". You should have seen his large eyeballs. Be assured that I always got a very weird look every time I went to the bank after that. And it took me many months to figure it out! Deathly embarassing even 20 years later! lol = mdr

Fred Caswell

As a child sleeping overnight at Uncle Norman's farm, it was necessary to use the "out-house". As a foreigner in New Zealand very many years later and roughing it, a local explained that a "chiotte" is sometimes called "the long-drop" -- honest!


My little comment is a bit different. While in a brocante in France, I inquired about the origin of a faience plate. I was told, "St. Clement." Due to my ignorance of this faiencerie, what I heard was "Cinq le mont" and what I understood was "five the mount"


By the way....
The French word "chiottes" (from the verb "chier") is used in the pluriel. The equivalent in the UK is -> the bog.
Language mistake (back to my first years in England).
One day, I was telling a few English friends about my catching grasshoppers on the way to school, putting them in a box secretly kept in my "cartable" (satchel) and releasing them in the classroom. (Yes, I'm afraid I went through that phase)... Somebody asked me: “but how old were you at the time?" "Oh", I replied.... "I was half past seven"!
Smiles and laughters followed... which had a positive effect as it forced me, once and for all, to learn seriously the difference between “half past” (seven), time, & (seven) “and a half” (age)!


Last year on Christmas Eve, we were in Goult to see the illumination of the decorated windows and sing traditional carols. As we followed the singers, who were dressed in traditional Provencal costumes, my traveling companion decided to join in the singing of Jingle Bells. In her strong, confident voice, she sang the words she thought she had heard, "Vive la France, vive la France, vive la pomme de terre!"


In re "chiotte" My friend and I were ataying at Les Bories, a very nice hotel in Gordes, and we had treated ourselves to spa treatments. We were ushered in to the waiting room, which was so very quiet and civilized, and offered a cup of coquelicot tea. My friend, who doesn't speak French, asked what kind of tea it was. I whispered back, "Poppy." She gasped, thinking I had said "Puppy." We both laughed.

I attempted to translate the joke to a friendly woman sitting across from us, but I mispronounced "chiot" as "chiotte," which caused the lovely French lady to look extremely shocked. This bilingual punning went in short order from "poppy" to Puppy" to "poopy!"

Stephen Holmes

My son's Drama teacher is called Mrs Ham.

Eve Robillardrobill

Kristin--We have a dentist here in Madison named Dr. Bracey. eve


my friend Michael makes lists of interesting names. His last one included these

Stuart C. Law, attorney
William W. Headline, journalist
Herb Score, baseball player

Bob Fowler

A sign on the side of a building in East Los Angeles -- Dr. Ouchie, Dentist

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