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faux amis

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les faux amis (lay fowz ah mee)

    : "false friends" or words that look alike... but have different meanings

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.Audio File & Example sentence:
Listen to my daughter Jackie, her friend Manu, and me... pronounce these French words: Download MP3 file

Les Faux Amis!
Dans la vie, la plupart de nos amis sont des vrais amis, mais c'est les faux amis qui nous déçoivent. In life, most of our friends are true friends, but it's the false friends who deceive us. --Tim Averill

Today's column is by guest writer Andréa Thomas. Enjoy, and don't miss the French version at the end of this edition!

by Andréa Thomas

Dear False Friends

Learning French? Be careful of some words that may trick you! You may have noticed that a lot of English words look like some French words, and vice-versa. Well, there is a very simple explanation for this - more than a third of words in the English language are of French origin. But why is that? Well, to understand this influence over English, we have to go back to the historic Norman invasion of 1066, which left England under Norman rule, meaning French became the lingua franca. As a result of this, English language has borrowed many words from French.

Sadly, while some of these words are used just as they are in French, others have evolved, as have their meanings, but beware of the trap: you may think you automatically know a lot of words in the other language but they are just here to make your learning process even more difficult. But what am I really talking about? Well, you might think that learning the word argument in French would be quite easy… After all, English owns a word quite similar, if not identical. Actually, it would be unwise to think that since the meaning of argument in French has nothing to do with the English one. Unfortunately, the list of tricky words is quite, if not extremely, long. As a native French speaker, I know that I had a lot of difficulty trying not to be mistaken by these false friends, and even though I’ve been studying English for a while now, I still get confused sometimes. I mean, what is up with vicious or sympathy? My French words vicieux and sympathie first come to my mind when I have to deal with these two, and that’s a shame because they are not exactly proper translations. The same thing happens with words like confidence, caution, figure, balance… and those are only my favourite ones, meaning they made me pull out my hair when I was still a beginner at English.

However, I think the winner would undoubtedly be actually. During my years of high school, I never heard a French student getting this word right. Even though our teacher kept telling us to use currently to match the French meaning, we would persist on using actually to express actuellement… Language learning is really gymnastics of the mind. To conclude, here are a few examples of unfriendly words that you should learn properly in order not to be confused and assimilate them to your own language:

affair vs. affaire
achieve vs. achever
deliver vs. délivrer
injure vs. injure
lecture vs. lecture
date vs. date
hazard vs. hasard
physician vs. physicien
luxury vs. luxure
to deceive vs. décevoir

Do you see my point? Though they may seem quite similar when it comes to vocabulary, English and French have some words “in common” that are just mean…

More about Andréa:
I'm a French girl studying English and Spanish at university, currently doing an internship in the great city of Hamburg, Germany. I'm passionate about languages and an active blogger for Lexiophiles
(, in both English and French.

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Andréa has offered us the French translation of her article (mille mercis, Andréa!)

Ces chers faux amis…

Vous apprenez le français ? Méfiez-vous de ces mots qui pourraient bien dangereusement vous piéger. Vous avez sans doute remarqué que bon nombre de mots anglais ressemblent fortement à certains mots français, et vice-versa : l’explication à ce phénomène est simple. En fait, plus d’un tiers des mots de la langue anglaise sont d’origine française… Mais quelle en est la cause ? Pour comprendre cette influence sur l’anglais, il faut remonter à l’historique invasion normande en 1066, qui a laissé l’Angleterre sous domination normande, et a permis au français de devenir la lingua franca. Par conséquence, la langue anglaise a « emprunté » de nombreux mots français.

Hélas, si certains de ces mots sont utilisés tels qu’ils le sont en français, d’autres ont évolué ainsi que leur sens. Attention au piège : vous pensez sans doute connaître automatiquement beaucoup de mots dans l’autre langue, mais en réalité ils n’existent que pour rendre votre apprentissage plus ardu. Mais à quoi me réfère-je exactement ? Par exemple, vous pensez peut-être qu’apprendre le mot argument en français serait simple. Après tout, l’anglais possède un mot similaire, voire identique. En fait, il serait bien présomptueux de penser ainsi… puisque le sens de argument en français n’est pas exactement le même qu’en anglais. Malheureusement, la liste de ces mots pas si amicaux que cela est relativement longue. En tant que francophone, je sais que j’ai eu beaucoup de difficultés à ne pas me laisser avoir par ces faux amis, et même si j’étudie l’anglais depuis maintenant plusieurs années, il m’arrive encore de me laisser prendre au piège. Vraiment, que me veulent vicious ou sympathy ? Mes mots français vicieux et sympathie me viennent à l’esprit immédiatement quand mon chemin croise celui de ces deux mots, ce qui est regrettable puisque ce ne sont pas des traductions exactes. Le même phénomène se produit avec confidence, caution, figure, balance… et ce ne sont que mes « préférés », ce qui veut dire qu’ils m’ont causé bien des déboires quand je n’étais encore qu’une débutante en anglais.

Cependant, je pense que le gagnant est incontestablement actually. Lorsque j’étudiais au lycée, je n’ai jamais entendu un élève français utiliser ce mot correctement. Notre professeur avait beau nous répéter que nous devions utiliser currently pour exprimer ce que nous voulions dire en français, nous avons persisté à utiliser actually pour dire actuellement… L’apprentissage des langues ressemble vraiment à une gymnastique de l’esprit. En conclusion, voici quelques exemples de mots « ennemis » que vous devez apprendre correctement pour ne pas les confondre et les assimiler aux mots de votre propre langue :

affair vs. affaire
achieve vs. achever
vs. délivrer
vs. injure
lecture vs. lecture
vs. date
vs. hasard
vs. physicien
luxury vs. luxure
to deceive vs. décevoir

Vous voyez ce que je veux dire… Même si ces deux langues paraissent similaires en matière de vocabulaire, l’anglais et le français ont quelques mots « en commun » qui sont juste vicieux…

  Beaumes de Venise (c) Kristin Espinasse
The blues in Beaumes-de-Venise... minus the bevy of people or flopée de français.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

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3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

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 The Art of Negotiation. Read on in today's story column.

marchander (mar shahn day) verb

    : to negotiate

French synonyms: chiner /she-nay/ (to look for bargains) débattre (to discuss, debate a price) chicaner (to quibble over), lésiner = to skimp on
English synonyms: to dicker, to bargain, to wrangle, to haggle, to higgle, to huckster

marchander un prix = to negotiate a price
tenter de marchander = to try to bargain

Il y a des bons coups à faire mais il faut toujours marchander.
There are good deals to be had but you've always got to haggle (over the price).

Audio File: Listen to today's word, expressions, and example sentence: Download Wav or Download MP3

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Recently, during a trip north to the Alps, the subject of negotiation came up. 15-year-old Max had seen his dad bartering wine for anything from honey to home improvements. He had overheard his mom brag about the "killing" she had made on some cripple ranunculus (the lady at the supermarket practically gave the flowers away, rather than toss them out). 

Keys2 And both Max and Jackie had heard the story behind the "Wall of Keys" wherein their mom walked off with 100 antique clés--along with the unusual board they were nailed to—after haggling and higgling with the brocante dealer. When the pseudo-antiquaire wanted to sell the "Wall" one key at a time, the newbie negotiator with the strong American accent balked: on n'arrivera jamais comme ça! Here are 100 euros for the keys and stand and that's my best offer—if you'll throw in this stack of old newspapers! (the journals were from the turn of the century, dated 1909....).

I was dumbstruck when the dealer accepted and I quickly dragged off the Wall of Keys only to struggle getting the board in the back of my little car. I zigzagged around like a chicken picking up a trail of keys which had fallen during what might have been a heist.


But back to the topic of negotiation, Max was curious to know if one could, for example haggle over ham at the local supermarché. 
"I don't think so, Max", I pointed out, amused at the thought of asking the caissière whether she might "throw in" one more pack of jambon and then she'd have herself a buyer! No this would not go over well and besides, that's what coupons are for.

As Max pondered the art of negotiation, Jean-Marc had an inspiration:
"Would you like me to try to negotiate the price of that quilt?" I had seen the antique boutis in a brocante and had been pining for it ever since.We were presently on our way home from vacation and it was now or never. I reasoned that the boutis would make both a nice souvenir and be of use in the house.

Further justifying the purchase (the boutis was 50 euros and not a need but a want...) I decided that Jean-Marc's offer might be a good opportunity for the kids to learn about L'Art de Marchander. And no one is better at bartering than their frugal French father ("Le Bon Negociateur").

"Here's what we'll do..." Jean-Ma
rc went over the game plan. We were to mosey on in to the brocante, head over, haphazardly, to the linens section, and proceed to look pathetically bored. Next, the four of us (our daughter, Jackie was in on the act) were to inspect the boutis as if it were a smelly old rag, and point out, in hushed tones (loud enough to reach the antique dealer) how the "old chiffon" might even be bug-infested. Quelle horreur! Finally, the head of our group, Le Bon Negociateur, was to—almost in passing, as one passes a crippled cat on the street and shows pity—offer to unburden the antique dealer of this unsightly sujet. The subject being that charming 1940's quilt.

Jean-Marc had taken care to come up with a "Plan B," in case the dealer wasn't "buyin' it". "Plan B" was to leave the store and not look back. We were to act as if we were getting into the car and driving off for good, and bon débarras at that! The idea was that the brocanteur would run after us, begging to accept our first offer after grossly overlooking our charity.

When plan B did not work we found ourselves seated stiffly in the car, blanket-less, and feeling quite con. That's when Le Bon Négociateur capitulated.
"Well, let's go in and get your blanket," Jean-Marc offered. "He's not going to budge on the price."

My cheeks still smarting from embarrassment, there was no way I was going to walk back into that brocante after our dramatic, shake-the-dust-off-our-shoes, exit.

That is when it occurred to me that 1) I still really wanted that antique boutis and 2) wasn't the embarrassed feeling more like pride? Why not take that bite of humble pie and walk back inside?

And back into the shop I sklunked, in time to fork over the 50 euros. Meantime Jean-Marc collected the ravissant "rag" and we both thanked the antique dealer. That is when my eyes traveled over the the set of faïence dinner plates.... I wondered just what the price of those might be, considering we'd just unburdened the dealer of the blanket... and wouldn't it only be fair to receive a discount on the next purchase (the ol' "petit geste commercial"? Might this be a good time for Mr. No Bargains Brocanteur to practice a discount)?

My mind might have thought up 50 reasons to reduce the price of those plates, instead, I quickly followed Jean-Marc out of the shop. I'd had my slice of Humble for the day, better leave some cake for the next capitulator.

Jean-Marc with "le boutis".

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DSC_0136 Bonjour Paris Column
Thanks for checking out my hymn "The Coattails of Cricketsong" over at Bonjour Paris!

French Vocabulary

la brocante (syn. le marché aux puces) = flea market
on n'arrivera jamais comme ça = we'll never get anywhere at this rate
le supermarché = supermarket
la caissière (le caissier) = clerk, checker (cashier)
le jambon = ham
le boutis = quilted blanket
l'art de marchander = the art of bargaining (check out this informative article)
le bon négociateur = the smart negotiator
quelle horreur = how frightening
le sujet = the subject
bon débarras = good riddance

 A Day in a Dog's Life... by Smokey R. Dokey
.............. ....................................................

Smokey says: the word of the day is marchander and, speaking of smokin' deals, Gramma K got a great barkin' bargain on that postcard rack (can you see it, far left?) : 20 euros. It makes a fun and tasty picture stand (I should know as I've eaten all of the photos on the bottom row. This photo was taken before the feast.)


Mr. Smoke says: Won't you order Gramma K's book? Makes a GREAT Father's Day gift -- filled with family stories, with several appearances from our own Father Hen (aka Le Bon Negotiateur)

 Words two(Booklist) Blogger Espinasse has taken a step backward in the evolution of media by converting selected contents of her Web log into a book. Her popular blog covers a different French word each day for an English-speaking audience. Espinasse's "definitions" come from her everyday experiences, particularly those provoked by her children's frequent delight at their mother's mistakes, misuses, and mispronunciation of words. Order this book.

More Gift Ideas:
French film: My Father's Glory

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.

Rosetta Stone French Level 1, 2, & 3

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
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In the village of Sarrians: a slice of scenic life. Don't miss out on the whole pie at Cinéma Vérité.

empreinte (ahm-prehnt) noun, feminine

    : print, trace, mark

empreinte génétique = genetic imprint
empreintes digitales = fingerprint
empreinte de rouge à lèvres = lipstick mark

Audio File: Listen to my daughter, Jackie, pronounce the day's word, terms, and example sentence: Download MP3 or Download Wav

Elle a laissé une empreinte sur ma joue. She left her mark on my cheek.


A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Standing before the tall iron gates to the Gare D'Avignon train station, my aunt kissed me firmly, once on each joue. When she pulled back, I noticed her eyes begin to water and I looked away, focusing instead on her "Apple Polish" lipstick. It is her signature rouge à lèvres and she, the affectionate embrasseuse, often leaves a trace of it on those she loves.

On the way home from the gare, I decided to positiver: to not focus on my aunt and uncle's absence, rather to turn the lonely ride into a Sunday drive (opting for the scenic and free route nationale instead of the autoroute).

Twenty minutes into the trip and the signs for Courthézon went missing.... In their place were signs to Monteux. That's odd, I thought, until it dawned on me that I had taken a wrong turn.

I decided to not try to track back and, instead, let serendipity be the guide. Might as well enjoy the unplanned spree and so much floral scenery! I rolled down my window, inhaling the sweet scent of Scottish broom.
  Scottish Broom (c) Kristin Espinasse

The yellow-budded bushes are scattered everywhere this time of year. In contrast with the yellow buissons, ripe red coquelicots flanked the country roads and cherry trees bowed loaded down with their bright red bounty. Adding to the color fest were the frilly dresses and clacking heels which offered an oh-so-french summertime appeal.

Coasting into a suburban district, I soon recognized the village of Sarrians and pulled off the road along the tree-lined boulevard Albin Durand. Recognizing a favorite French façade, I snapped a few photos before setting out on a petit périple through the village.

I remembered a large cour where Mom and I had admired a pretty patch of belle de nuit. Now, two years later, I have the same flowers growing in my own garden. Lost in nostalgic souvenirs I ambled past les belles, snapping a few more photos along the way.

When next I came out of my photo stupor, I noticed a woman smiling at me. I could just make out her face beyond the glare of a windshield. Beside the car there was a bucket of sudsy water. I approached the friendly car washer and greeted her:

"It is all so beautiful," I explained, pushing my camera aside. The woman looked to be in her mid fifties. Her short blond hair was thick and wavy. In the place of maquillage she wore a healthy, natural glow.

The car washer smiled and I noticed how her sourire was unusually sympathetic. It reminded me of the other villagers I had just encountered: strangely, they were all smiling back at me in that same endearing, empathetic way. How comforting this was after leaving my family back at the train station.

I saw the bottle of window cleaner in the car washer's hand.
"Je vends ma voiture," she explained. I stood back and offered an appreciative glance (but, between you and me, the car was real rattletrap. I hoped my new friend was trading up...).

"Je vois. And what will you be driving next?"

"A Renault!" she answered, citing a newer model. This was good news indeed!

We chatted like that for a moment and I couldn't help wonder about her ever affectionate stare and that sympathetic smile which mirrored the locals that I had saluted earlier.

"Well, I should be moving on," I announced.

The car washer nodded, and her sympathetic stare went on to meet the sides of my face.

"Au fait," she said, pointing to my joues, "You have lipstick prints."

Lipstick prints!

My hands flew up to my cheeks and I remembered those friendly French faces which now flashed before me:

the old man on the bike whose smile seemed over-polite
the little girl grinning sweetly, ever indiscreetly
the young man who said salut (hoot hoot!)

How sympathetic they had been to the lip-smacking situation, never stopping to point it out, and, in so doing, keeping their own dignified clout.

Meantime my Aunt was halfway to Paris, hopefully giggling like gangbusters (or, at the very least, like sugar snatchers).

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la gare = train station
la gare d'Avignon
= Avignon train station
une joue
= jowl, cheek
le rouge à lèvres = lipstick
une embrasseuse (un embrasseur) = a kisser, one who kisses
positiver = to look on the bright side
la route nationale = highway
l'autoroute (f) = motorway, freeway
le buisson = bush
le coquelicot (syn. le pavot) = poppy
petit = little
le périple = journey
la cour = courtyard
la belle de nuit ("lady of the night") = botanical name "marvel of Peru" flower (Mirabilis jalapa "The four o'clock flower")
le maquillage = make-up
le sourire = smile
je vends ma voiture = I'm selling my car
je vois = I see
au fait... = by the way...


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Mr. Smoke says: Mama Braise does not like oranges -- tant mieux pour moi!

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety