mardi 26 octobre 2010

Deceptive Cognates

Le présent article a été rédigé par Jonathan Goldberg, que je remercie. Une traduction en français sera publiée prochainement.

When the same word exists in French and English –
with no linguistic connection

In a previous article, we stated that a false friend, in a literal sense, is someone whom you have regarded as a friend but who has betrayed you or let you down; and that, in a figurative sense, and in a linguistic context, a false friend is “a word or expression in one language that, because it resembles one in another language, is often wrongly taken to have the same meaning” (Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged). An example that we offered of a false friend was the English word ‘agenda’, which in English means a list or program of things to be done or considered. This is not the same as the French word agenda, which would be translated into British English as ‘diary’ and into American English as ‘calendar’.[1]

We also made reference to semi-false friends, such as notorious and notoire, which may sometimes be used synonymously in English and French, but not in all cases.

It should be pointed out that there are also words that are either written or pronounced  identically in English and French (or both written and pronounced identically) , but that this  may simply be a coincidence (or, in rare cases,  due to some common root), with no present-day connection between them. These may be called ‘deceptive cognates’. Here are examples of such words:

FRENCH word
English meaning
ENGLISH word
French meaning




bride
bridle
bride
mariée
dot
dowry
dot
point
nappe
tablecloth
nap
sieste
pin
pine tree
pin
aiguille
pain
bread
pain
douleur
rein
kidney
rein
rêne
ride
wrinkle
ride
promenade
(à cheval, à bicyclette ou en voiture)

The connection between the French and English words may be even further removed when, for example, one is an adjective and the other a noun, or one a verb and the other an adverb. This is the case with the following words:

FRENCH word
English meaning
ENGLISH word
French meaning




averse
shower
averse
opposé a
fond
bottom
fond
affectueux
if
yew-tree
if
si
lame
blade
lame
boiteux
legs
legacy
legs
jambes
lent
slow
lent
carême
or
now
or
ou
sale
dirty
sale
vente, soldes

Source: The Beginning Translator’s Workbook, or the ABC of French to English Translation, Michele H. Jones, University Press of America, Inc.

[1] ‘diary’ entered English in the 1580s, from L. diarium "daily allowance," later "a journal," neut. of diarius "daily," from dies "day".  Earliest sense was a daily record of events; the sense of the book in which such are written is said to be first attested in Ben Jonson's "Volpone" (1605).
‘calendar’ entered English c.1200, "system of division of the year;" mid-14c. as "table showing divisions of the year;" from O.Fr. calendier "list, register," from L. calendarium "account book," from calendae/kalendae "calends" the first day of the Roman month -- when debts fell due and accounts were reckoned -- from calare "to announce solemnly, call out," as the priests did in proclaiming the new moon that marked the calends, from PIE base kele- "to call, shout". Taken by the early Church for its register list of saints and their feast days.

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