Monday, January 24, 2011

Coming Soon To a Theater Near You...

(No, it's unfortunately not French Bean's Grand Adventures in Dijon. )

One thing that has amused me ever since I lived in France is how the French consider English to be a chic, foreign language. To them, things just sound and look cooler in English than in their native tongue. However, that does not mean that the French automatically know how to use this language correctly...

Don't get me wrong. I am very well-aware of how some French words are misused in English just to present a slightly more elegant touch to things: à la mode for brownies with ice cream, à la carte when you look at a restaurant's menu, ménage à trois for a kinky threesome. (In case you were wondering, ménage à trois translates more as "love triangle" for a Francophone.)

Still, I've suffered for my mother tongue over here. I've had to become accustomed to stop cringing at the mere sight of the French attempts to anglicize English words by adding an unnecessary possessive apostrophe S. I purposely avoid McDonald's to not catch a glimpse of the phrase "Maxi Best Of" on the menu. And don't get me started on George Clooney and his Nespresso "What Else?" campaign...

I've even resigned myself to just accept the stupid Quick Burger posters that annoyingly use English words with an asterisk and then, in smaller script, translate said words back into French.

Like so:

Apparently, in the 1980s, there was a law passed that by politicians fearing the encroaching menace of foreign vocabulary corrupting the beautiful French language and as a method of fighting off this evil scrouge, businesses have to comply with this law and translate ANY non-French words into French.

Fine. I can accept that.

I have seen some exceptions to this law, though. Two words that come to mind are "brushing" and "re-looking." Now, these words clearly sound and look English, but I assure you, THEY ARE NOT. Rather, their meanings are far from being correct English and the French are often surprised to learn that said words aren't really real English.

Brushing: French noun. The expensive process of a French hairdresser styling someone's hair using a hair-dryer, a ceramic iron, a nuclear warhead, etc.

In other words, it means getting your hair did at a beauty parlor. This is a far cry from the gerund which means to brush one's own locks.

I really shocked the kind hairdresser who altered my 'do last week when I educated her on the proper meaning of "brushing."

By the way, here's the result:

Re-looking: French noun. A trip to a beauty institute in which you are advised/taught how to completely change your wardrobe, hairstyle, the way you put on make-up. Does not involve plastic surgery. After the session is over, you sometimes end up looking worse than what you did in the first place.

Regular proper English term: a make-over.

Fine. I grudgingly accept that common English words in French have nothing to do with the correct meaning. The same thing happens to the French language across the pond.

I have even, with teeth clenched and veins dangerously pulsating across my temples, ceased to complain about the stupid choices to change a movie's original title into something else. Rather, if you absolutely must alter a foreign film's title, at least translate it into your native tongue! For example, The Hangover's French title is Very Bad Trip, which suggests that the protagonists either had an unfortunate odyssey or went a little overboard with their use of hallucinogen drugs.

Okay. FINE. I acknowledge that English speakers changed the Edith Piaf film La Môme to La Vie En Rose for U.S. audiences. At least the American title alludes to her most famous song.

But THIS really just takes the cake:

Sex Friends.


Seriously?! "Sex Friends?" What native English speaker is going to watch a film that is bluntly titled "Sex Friends?" There is no way that title would be on a regular American movie poster back in the States (unless it was perhaps a porno). A quick search on the internet reveals that the proper title is No Strings Attached. I still think that sounds far more palatable than, say, if the French were to just call it Le Plan Cul.

This movie title is clearly a victim of the French concept that English is a cool language and, therefore, movies that are titled in English are just so infinitely awesome.

Okay. Rant over. I still love the French language even if I sometimes wish I could discipline it like the badly-behaved child it is. I just have to take the Franglais as she is spoke.

On a different note, I apologize in advance if I don't post as often as I normally would these next few weeks. I am very occupied trying to get all my shit together to find another job here in France plus to apply to as many universities as possible. The real world sometimes beckons for me to join it...

Barb the French Bean


  1. Yep. It makes it sound like a porno. People who do go to see it might end up being disappointed.

  2. Still laughing, beans.....


    Sex Friends.


  3. Hm... they have several "English loanwords" in Japanese that don't quite add up, as well. For instance, a steering wheel is a "handle" (okay, that makes a little sense), and a wall outlet is a "consent" (?). Oh, and certain types of all-you-can-eat buffets are called "vikings."

    They also use shorter versions of English "sex friend" (sekufure) and "sexual harassment" (sekuhara), even though they have their own words for these. I think the idea is that they just sound less explicit to those who aren't very good at English.

    Though that still doesn't clear up why the French would change the title to "Sex Friends" in English. Unless it's already a slang term over there like it is in Japanese?

  4. Haha I cannot believe they changed the title to Sex Friends...I did see the movie, which btw it is very cute (kind of reminds me of my life story except there is no happy ending for me...Then again what movie doesn't remind me of my life? :p).

    Your hair looks nice (I see someone is more confident with putting pictures up...GOOD! FINALLY! though I know you did it in past posts).

    Though you do talk about how French use the English language, when reading your post the phrase "Pardon my French..." came to mind (I know it has nothing to do with the post), but I just find it bizarre that people in the US say that to excuse profanity (especially since none of the profanity is in French...).

    lol random thought, but good post ^_^

    -Coffee Bean

  5. Stu: I think you are right. :-P

    Amber: I still stare at the poster in disbelief. It is located right in front of Dijon's train station so you can't miss it.

    Zora: I don't know. The rough equivalent of it might be le plan cul. And I had to LOL at the viking comment.

    Coffee Bean: Thanks so much, Partner-in-Crime! :-D

    I'm sure it might be a cute film, but frankly with that title, I can't see it that way...

    -Barb the French Bean

  6. I'd go see just about ANY movie if "sex" was in the title.

    Okay, no I wouldn't.

    Those language differences would indeed be annoying. I get all retentive about those things and would have veins pulsing, too.

    Seriously?... Reeeally??... Seriously?

    Good luck with the job search, it is always daunting, but I feel confident you will find something awesome and exciting!

  7. Remember, with any cosmetic plastic surgery there can always be risks and complications that can occur related to infection or a reaction to anesthesia. But with precautions by the surgical team, complications are typically minimized or prevented. Make sure you ask all the right questions as to what to expect before and after your surgery.

  8. I SOOO need a Sex Friend.

    Perfecto! (That's my I'm closer to Mexico than finding a sex friend anytime soon). :)

    Thanks for the laugh!

  9. "One thing that has amused me ever since I lived in France is how the French consider English to be a chic, foreign language"

    Amusingly, the Brits think the exact opposite.

  10. Hey Bean, I responded to your comment on my blog. When you get the chance, check it out. ;)

  11. Stephanie: I know, right?

    And thanks. I hope to find something soon...

    Jazzie: Um, thanks for the plastic surgery spam. I'll keep that information in mind in case I want to someday place my nose on top of my head or detach a limb and set it on my stomach.

    Kate: Yeah, I need a sex friend as well. XD And you're welcome!

    Fizzee: Really?

    Random Rambler: Checked it. :-D

    -Barb the French Bean

  12. Ha ha ha ha! I guess it makes sense if you think of it in terms of the whole "friends with benefits things" but really?! SEX FRIENDS! Classic!

  13. As if we don't do it here in America all the time with just about EVERY language.

    ~Randall A.

  14. Hi! Please don't take this the wrong way, I really don't mean to be agressive or rude. I read your post and even though I like the way you write, I didn't enjoy the content that much... Not because I am french (which I am) but because most of it isn't accurate.

    Starting with what annoyed you the most, the "Sex friends" movie title, I'd say they called it that way to make sure that everyone (including those who don't speak a very good english) would get it. Also, that's a word they use quite often in the movie, so it didn't come out of the blue... Same goes with "the hangover", not everyone is familiar with the term either. I think they are just trying to give credits to those who made the movie by keeping the title in english, while making it understandable to the locals.

    The title "La vie en rose" was not only chosen because it was one of Piaf song but also because it is an expression that native english speaking people have fully integrated to their language.

    As for "Brushing", originally, the translation was correct. It meant and still means "coiffure" from "coiffer" (aka "to brush" in english). the meaning has been altered a little, but the essence is kept as, when you ask for a brushing in France, it does not only involve drying hair but also brushing it.

    Finally, the word "relooking" have actually been completely made up, but it involves the whole process of transforming someone's looks, surgery included.

    And that's about it, just though that these information could help you get less annoyed next time you'll hear these words :)

    Good luck on your job search,

    Lady Ohlala

  15. Thanks Lady Ohlala for providing some French perspective on my post! ^.^

    So, did you already see the movie? You say that it was a term that was used frequently in it. Or is "sex friends" already a part of French vocabulary? (I have frankly never heard a Francophone use it. :-p)

    As for "La vie en rose," we prefer to say "rose-colored glasses." You have to imagine a person wearing tinted spectacles on their face because that is how they see their world. I also know that the movie title alluded to the song and I definetly know that Piaf's life was anything but pink. :-)

    And it's nice to see that I got the gist of re-looking right, if not the plastic surgery aspect. At least here in Dijon, plastic surgery is done chez un chirurgien esthétique, not a re-looking center. At least that is what I've concluded since I haven't thought about getting a make-over done. :-P

    I think that, with your help, I will be less annoyed when I hear certain words, but "sex friends" just sounds *wrong* in my English-speaking mind. Oh so very, very wrong...

    Merci beaucoup!


  16. I am glad you didn't take it the wrong way, now that I read my first comment again, I realize it might sound condescending, which wasn't my intention :)

    And yes, I've seen the movie in english (hate to see them in french, I always feel like they mess with the translation) and they actually use the word (sex friend) quite often when justifying their relationship. Now, I am not english, and I can understand that it might sound quite gross for a native english speaker! Aldo, it's not a word french people use, I am not even sure we actually have a word for it! I will have to check that!

    As for "La vie en rose", you taught me something today! I was convinced that it was a french expression very often used in english... My bad! :)

    Anyway, you just got yourself a new reader! I am very interested in reading more about your views on the french manners and habits... There's much to say, and not always the nicest things, I am well aware of that ;-p

    Oh, et avec plaisir!

    Lady Ohlala

  17. You are my second French reader! Yay! :-D

    (This honestly makes me so happy!)

    J'espère que tu auras une bonne journée!



Apparently, leaving comments on this blog is a hit-or-miss game of Russian roulette: you are either lucky and can comment away, or you are required to log in when the settings are CLEARLY set to allow trouble-free commenting (sorry 'bout that, folks). If anything, the Facebook page is always a viable option. :) -Barb