dimanche 4 mai 2008
There is an expression in french "Arrete ton char!" that I have heard many times. It was always used in the context of "quit being so dramatic" (usually used by my french brother-in-law to his young daughter). Stop exagerating. Stop carrying on.

Because of the french tendancy to not pronounce the last letter or two, I thought he was saying "chat" or cat. I could totally see how "Stop your cat!" could be used in that way, perhaps something about meowing on and on about the same thing, or the drama-queen dispositions of cats.

Alain and I were talking one evening, and there was some joke about cats. I was quite proud to use my new-found expression. I told him, in my best 'see how well I am learning French expressions' voice: "Arrete ton chat!" as a joke. He didn't quite understand, so I told him "You know, the expression 'arrete ton chat'?" (Geez, What kind of French is he if he doesn't know this expression?)

No, it's char! Char? what the heck is a char?

Apparently char is short for chariot. Also, it sounds like 'charrier' to exagerate.

"Nous avons là droit à un beau calembour, digne de l'Almanach Vermot et datant du milieu du XXe siècle. Cette expression est tout simplement un jeu de mot avec 'char', le véhicule, et 'charre', l'exagération, mot dérivé du verbe populaire 'charrier', exagérer. Elle assimile celui qu'on essaye d'arrêter de dire des bêtises au véhicule lancé à grande vitesse qu'il faut tenter de stopper.L'ajout du nom du conducteur est venu un peu après la naissance de l'expression, en 1959, à l'époque du succès du film Ben-Hur dont on sait qu'un des passages les plus spectaculaires est une course de chars dans la Rome antique."

"This is a pun dating back to the 20th century (wow! that long ago! ;)
This expression is simply a play on words of 'chariot', the vehicle, and 'charre', the exaggeration, the slang meaning of the popular verb 'charrier', to exaggerate (the verb can also mean to carry along or transport). It relates someone who tries to stop talking nonsense to the effort of stopping a large vehicle traveling at high speed.
The addition of the name of the driver ("Arrte ton char Ben-Hur") came shortly after the birth of the expression, in 1959, to the era of the success of the film Ben Hur, which includes as we well know the scenes of the chariot race in ancient Rome. "

Anyone want to share language gaffes that they have committed?

3 commentaires:

David a dit…

Actually "charrier" comes from "char" and the first meanings of the verb are "to drag" and "to carry on a carriage". It's still commonly used with rivers dragging whatever rivers can drag (trees, etc) and much less with carriages as there are not that many around these days...

(and actually "to carry" and "carriage" as well as "car" and some other English words also come from "char" or at least the 11th Century form of the word)

OK, my word blunder now.
Strangely I can't recall any in English, but I have a funny one in French.
Back my sophomore year, majoring in English at the University of Toulouse, we're in classical literature and are studying The Canterbury Tales. And at some point the teacher asks : "quelle est l'origine des maux du chevalier ?" and for some reason I heard "quelle est l'origine du mot 'chevalier' ?"
Puzzled by the silence of the class after a question that's so easy and obvious, I replied out loud, almost without realizing I was not whispering: "Ben, c'est 'cheval' !"

I can tell you I never felt more ridiculous after the teacher's reaction. A teacher who loved making fun of students every time he could (and with whom I became good friends after a while).

alisa in Los Angeles a dit…

There are so many I couldn't even begin... we have these 2 books, "101 French Idioms" and "101 French Proverbs"...great books. You wil learn things like:

"Etre une vraie girouette", (to be a real weather vane)...which translates to "to keep changing one's mind".


"Quand on parle du loup, on en voit la queue" (when you speak of the wolf, you see his tail), which translates to "speak of the devil"

What is so hard to me is the little differences in how 2 words when spoken can sound so much alike, there is just a slight difference, but the different is too much for my ear to notice.

Starman a dit…

Bonjour Megan - Yes, we have returned to la belle France. If I can survive the mal de le respire I picked up immediately, we will go home on 31 Juillet

I love the French lessons you and the other bloggers provide for us who love the language but can't leasrn to save our souls.

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