Even if this phenomenon annoys language purists, there are more and more English words in the French language. They are everywhere, even old people know them even if they don’t always know what they mean or how they should be pronounced! Here a short list of 10 English loanwords, 5 with the same meaning in French and in English, and 5 words with a semantic shift:
This is probably the most used English word in French. French people do say “fin de semaine” sometimes, but it doesn’t mean Saturday and Sunday, it usually means the end of a working week, like Thursday or Friday. Weekend clearly designed Saturday and Sunday, Friday night sometimes, and also implies that these are not working days.
The first meaning of break in English is to reduce an object into pieces. But French people use the word “break” with one of its other meaning: a pause, the suspension of something. In French, a break can either be a pause, a period of time where you are away from a stressful environment or situation, or it can mean a pause in a relationship, a kind of temporary rupture to see if things are going to get better or not. The word only means these two things in French whereas the word “break” in English can have multiple meanings depending on the context.
An airbag is a safety device usually found in cars and that pops up when there is an accident in English and in French as well. The French word would be “coussin gonflable” or “coussin autogonflant” but nobody uses them nowadays.
Marketing has the same meaning in French and in English. It refers to market studies, to the different ways to sell a product, and it can be a subject in school or a particular sector in the working world. Some schools are trying to impose the French word “mercatique” but you will probably never hear it in everyday life in France.
A gloss is a shiny lipstick in French and in English. There is an equivalent in French, which is “brillant à lèvres” but as it is quite long and French people are a bit lazy, they tend to use the English word. It is more popular among young people though, French grandparents might not know what it means.
We are entering the shady area where words do not mean exactly the same thing in English and in French. Football in French would be what is called “soccer” in American English. In the UK, football means the same thing as in France, but in the US, football is what French people called “football américain”, which is not the same game. And the French designation makes more sense to me, as football players in France are only allowed to touch the ball with their feet, whereas American football is played with hands and feet!
A cutter in French is a tool which is like a knife with a retractable blade, used for cutting cardboard for example. In English, the equivalent would be a utility knife or a box cutter, so we can say that the meaning of the word has evolved in French and that it can go on its own without being qualified by an adjective. French people have only kept the cutting dimension.
We are beginning our series of words ending in “ing” and that is more and more pulled away from their original meaning. A jogging in English is the action of running in order to exercise. In French, it has the same meaning, but it also designates a tracksuit. So, if you are in France, you can hear both “Je vais faire un jogging” (I’m going for a run) and “Je suis en jogging” (I’m wearing a tracksuit)!
Pressing is usually used as an adjective in English and it means that something is important and has to be handled quickly. It can also designate the act of pressing and this is this meaning (or kind of) that French people have decided to keep. A pressing in France is a place where you can have your clothes washed and ironed with steam.
And this is probably the word that is the most far away from the original English meaning. The word smoking in English is almost always related to cigarettes, except in its informal meaning where it designates an attractive person. In French, a smoking is… a tuxedo! You may wonder why the word has changed so much between the two languages, and our best guess is that a smoking jacket used to designate jackets that gentlemen wore at home to smoke. The jacket of the French “smoking” looks like these outdated overgarments, in its form at least!
If you want to discover all these words with your flatmates, you can with Chez Nestor!
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