Here are some of our favourite examples of when a French word doesn’t quite mean the same thing in English.
Starting with an old classic:
Throat support – Soutien-gorge (Bra)
Ladies, want to buy some nice lingerie? Well don’t forget that French researchers said in 2013 that women would be better off without their “throat support”.
Mouth fun – Amuse-bouche (Appetiser)
Want a yummy little treat before dinner? Then why not try a “mouth fun”.
A blue – Un bleu (Bruise)
When you get hurt, the little mark that appears is simply called a “blue” in France.
Feet fingers – Doigts de pieds (Toes)
What are toes, if not “feet fingers” anyway?
Photo: Josie Hill/Flickr
Pain sufferer – Souffre-douleur (Scapegoat)
Makes more sense than “scapegoat” anyway.
Stupid thought – pense-bête (Reminder note)
If you really have trouble getting organised in your daily tasks, opt for a “pense-bête” which actually means a reminder.
Master swimmer – Maître-nageur (Lifeguard)
They teach your children how to swim and rescue you in case of danger. What a hero, a real “master swimmer”.
Photo: Andy Poulaine/Flickr
Soft soft – Doudou (Comfort blanket or favourite cuddly toy)
The baby is crying. Where’s his “soft-soft” so he can cuddle with it.
Boss’s work – Chef-d’oeuvre (Masterpiece)
It’s easy to be amazed by a nice painting, especially when it’s the “boss’s work”.
Apple of the earth – Pomme de terre (Potato)
We quite like this one, here at The Local. You say potato, we say earth apple.
Little washing rats – Raton laveur (Raccoons)
These cute little animals are pretty clean: The French even call them “little washing rats”.
Bald mouse – chauve-souris (bat)
Likewise French has a slightly more elaborate way of describing bats, referring to them as chauve-souris (although really souris ailées – winged mice – would be more accurate).
Joy reducers – Rabat-joie (Party pooper)
In France, party poopers are seen as such a threat they’re called “joy-reducers” or, in another translation they are “joy flaps”.
Break you! Casse-toi (piss off)
Let’s face it, shouting “break you” at someone in English is never going to get your point across.
Minute chicken – Cocotte-minute (Pressure cooker)
Want to cook a nice casserole dish in just a few minutes? Why don’t you try using a “minute casserole” or even “minute chicken”?
Dress keeper- Garde-robe (Wardrobe)
For all the fashion-victims out there, you can add new fancy items to your “dress-keeper” after a long day of shopping.
Feet breaker – Casse-pieds (Pain in the backside)
Your neighbour is getting on your nerves. What a “feet-breaker”.
Money carrier – Porte-monnaie (Purse)
Where do you carry your money when you walk in the street? In you “money-carrier” of course.
Another version of this story was published in 2014.