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Faux Amis

0 Tagged: True Confessions

When I'm in Montreal for the weekend (which I am once or twice a year, thanks to my husband's devotion to the Habs) I like to pretend I'm a local, just for an hour or two, and do something I've done a million times at home---go for a long walk, get a coffee and a paper. I walk like I know where I'm going---without looking at a map, or pausing uncertainly at the corners, or taking more than cursory notice of street signs---though really, all I've got is a rudimentary understanding of the neighborhood and a cell phone in my back pocket. I like to think I'm passing as a real Montrealer, albeit not a particularly fashionable one---until, of course, I open my mouth.

I retained a tiny bit of high school French, which I'm terrifically self conscious about using, and I never get beyond 'bonjour', anyway: all of the locals can tell right away and kindly switch to English for the rest of our conversation.  Consequently, I've been thinking that my doofy forays en francais are what's been marking me as a tourist---but according to this article in Sunday's Gazette, even my mother tongue has been giving me up:

French and English share many words that have different meanings in each language. For example, "librairie" means "bookstore", while "library" translates as "bibliotheque..." Such words are known as "faux amis"---false friends. But in Montreal, many of those false friends have insinuated themselves into everyday parlance.

Animator (community organizer), exposition (exhibition), manifestation (demonstration), primordial (vital), formation (training) and permanence (job security) ... We often employ those words as they are used in French instead of according to their English definitions. ...Some of us apply for a post instead of a position; contact a liaison agent instead of liaison officer; apply for a subvention instead of subsidy; go on a stage (rhymes with garage) instead of a workshop; plan the implantation of a program instead of its implementation; and waste a lot of time on planification.

This article was the second in a five part series exploring the various English dialects spoken in the city. I'm looking forward to reading the rest prior to my next trip---I've long given up hope of ever speaking French like a real Montrealer, but who knows... maybe next time I can pass as a British one.