Language of Love & Logic (Sort Of)

French is often known as the ‘language of love’, whilst Latin languages (the group to which French belongs) are generally considered to be particularly romantic – in fact, an alternative term for ‘Latin languages’ is ‘romance languages’. However, French isn’t just romantic – it can be highly practical, too. Echoing the directness of its native speakers, the language itself does not mess around in conveying exactly what it wants to get across. To illustrate this point, I’ve compiled a list of ten examples of English-French translations, where the translation tells you very clearly just what it is you’re dealing with.

Okay, that’s a lie. I don’t care about illustrating the point, it just made a nice introduction.

These are just ten literal translations that really tickled me. I wrote a post about one of them a while back, but I thought the topic merited revisiting. There are definitely far more than ten, too, but these are the first that sprang to mind.

The first two made me laugh because the English versions and the French versions are each so representative of their respective countries. The rest just sound hilariously silly when you translate them literally. And yet, you have to admit, they do all make complete logical sense.* When you think about it. 


1. Pie chart

Actual french translation: Le camembert

Literal translation back to English: Camembert (cheese – eaten/served by cutting wedges out of a circle)

2. Teaspoon

Actual translation: La cuillère à café

Literal translation: Coffee spoon

3. Cauliflower

Actual translation: Le chou-fleur

Literal translation: Cabbage-flower

4. Toes

Actual translation: Les doigts de pieds

Literal translation: Feet fingers

5. Ninety-nine

Actual translation: Quatre-vingt-dix-neuf

Literal transaltion: Four-twenty-ten-nine

6. Potato

Actual translation: La pomme de terre

Literal translation: Ground apple, or earth apple

7. Hairband

Actual translation: Le serre-tête

Literal translation: Squeeze-head

8. Nightclub

Actual translation: La boite de nuit

Literal translation: Night box

9. Wardrobe

Actual translation: La garde-robe

Literal translation: Dress-keeper… or dress-guard

10. A handshake

Actual translation: La poignée de main

Literal translation: A handful of hand

Personally, my favourties are 4. and 10. – just for the visuals…. Let me know if you have any of your own to add to the list!

*Apart from the ‘ninety-nine’, perhaps. I will never get over my frustration with the French numerical system.

2 thoughts on “Language of Love & Logic (Sort Of)

Add yours

  1. And of course in Norman castles they called the privy the garderobe. All to do with readjusting their numerous garments after performance. Tx


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