L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

12 November 2006 Blog Home : November 2006 : Permalink

Les Faux Amis

Just about every Anglophone resident in France has their personal tale about being stuck for a word and just using the English one with a French accent and then discovering that you have made a very emabrassing mistake (and I suspect vice versa for almost every Francophone resident in England or other English speaking land). These words, the ones that you think mean the same as English but actually have a totally different one, are know as the "Faux Amis" or false friends. There are a lot of them, some rather long like "preservatif", others shorter if not sweeter such as "pipe" or "string" and there is, I have discovered, a very useful website dedicated to them, albeit one that ignores the three I just listed and a bunch of others that I can think of.

Anti-liberalOne of the words that gets well mangled is "liberal". This is a case where the English/American meaning has migrated while the French one hews to the original. A French "liberal" is someone who rather likes Margaret Thatcher's or Ronald Reagan's Free Market Conservative policies, whereas these days an English liberal considers those policies to be truly terrible and to be fought against.

Amusingly in both languages liberal frequently seems to be rather a derogatory word. Anglophone "liberals" these days frequently seem to prefer to call themselves "progressives", a word that does appear to mean the same in both langauges.

The English non-liberals are called conservatives, a word that in French means what the English refer to as preservatives (whereas a French "preservatif" is known in English as a condom - and trust me you only tell French waiters once that you like your food "sans preservatives"). The French non-liberals are pretty much everyone, although more on the left than the right, hence the poster on the right about an antiliberal rally which is being organized by a communist former minister.

I would classify myself as a liberal of the French variety and hence utterly against Mme Buffet, a person who sums up almost everything I dislike about France and its politics. Possibly her only saving grace is that she attended the Sorbonne (and seems to have had a riot of a time - literally) instead of one of the Grandes Ecoles. As a result of her riotous time in the Sorbonne, Mme Buffet seems to have failed to learn basic economics or to have understood that governments are not the source of all goodness. Given that she was fighting the French riot police, part of the government, you would think that she could have learned that but apparently not. The lesson she seemed to take away was that governments should provide their citizens everything they want or need and that nasty right wing ones perfer to keep the loot distributed amongst a smaller group.

Of course Mme Buffet is almost certainly a false friend to those who vote for her. Her policies, if implemented, would wipe out practically every business in France and thereby turn the entire country into a copy of the former Soviet Union. Curiously Mme Buffet seems to have failed to note the passing of that country or to learn from it.

I despise l'Escroc and Vile Pin