'Traduit de l'anglais' vs 'traduit de l'américain'

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CapnPrep

Senior Member
AmE
"Traduit de l'américain" means "translated from the American".
Incorrect. See my post #74 above, as well as several others in this thread, or consult a dictionary, such as the Concise Oxford-Hachette, cited in the Word Reference entry for américain ("masculine noun Ling American English"), or the TLF (B.− Subst. masc. 1. LING. Parler anglais des États-Unis), the dictionary of the Académie Française ("N. m. L'américain, forme prise par l'anglais écrit et parlé aux États-Unis d'Amérique"), the Petit Robert ("L'américain : l'anglais parlé aux États-Unis."), etc. etc. etc.
 
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  • timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Incorrect. See my post #74 above, as well as several others in this thread, or consult a dictionary, such as the Concise Oxford-Hachette, cited in the Word Reference entry for américain ("masculine noun Ling American English"), or the TLF (B.− Subst. masc. 1. LING. Parler anglais des États-Unis), the dictionary of the Académie Française ("N. m. L'américain, forme prise par l'anglais écrit et parlé aux États-Unis d'Amérique"), the Petit Robert ("L'américain : l'anglais parlé aux États-Unis."), etc. etc. etc.
    I find it hard to believe you're being serious - but I suspect you are. Dictionary definitions are just people's opinion of usage codified - just as these forums are! If we wanted to simply believe dictate from dictionaries we wouldn't be on this board. We already know from this thread that many French speakers simply hear "American English" when they read, write or say "américain". I don't believe they are being prejudiced - it doesn't make it correct though. This thread isn't questioning that this usage exists in the French language.

    By this argument you could use any word without regard for the wider world and simply on what impression it makes to you. As I said very early on in this thread, it's not for foreign speakers to decide the subsets of another language. I wouldn't dream of trying to tell a native speaker from anywhere in the French speaking world which parts of francophonie should or should not be called French! The fact that some French people do this is not in dispute. Its validity is. Its potential offence is proven by this thread.
     
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    CapnPrep

    Senior Member
    AmE
    As I said very early on in this thread, it's not for foreign speakers to decide the subsets of another language.
    Insofar as this sort of thing is "decided" by anyone, it certainly is up to French speakers to determine French usage. But it makes no difference in this case, because the subset of English identified by the French term américain is exactly the same as the subset identified by the English term American English, and the relationship between américain and anglais is exactly the same as the one between American English and English.

    Your opinion is that américain refers to a language separate from anglais. You tried to argue above (#40) that this is somehow required by French grammar. That is incorrect: Nothing in French grammar says that the meanings of these two terms cannot overlap, or that one cannot be a subset of the other. But you are still free to hold this opinion. On the other hand, French speakers and the dictionaries I quoted are of the opinion that américain refers to a type of anglais. We're not talking about right or wrong / valid or invalid here — just opinions. And in my opinion, their opinion about the meanings of French words, as they are used in French, counts more than your opinion.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    If you think it's an offence, you misunderstand it...
    No, you misunderstand - I mean "offence" passively, that is to say "the act of being offended (rightly or wrongly)". As I say above, I don't think that the French usage is prejudiced, I don't think it's deliberately trying to cause offence. That fact that some English native speakers are offended by the French usage (which is what I mean by "offence" eg = "are offended") is shown above.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    And in my opinion, their opinion about the meanings of French words, as they are used in French, counts more than your opinion.
    Counts more than my opinion about what? Again, I absolutely don't dispute that the French mean "American English" by the term "américain". I claim that this usage is
    - inaccurate - languages other than English are spoken in the USA and English is spoken in more countries than England.
    - partisan - other countries using the English language are not so consistently given a terminology that refers to their geography rather than their language, and the treatment of one's language is very emotive.
    - open to offence (= receiving offence) - this does not correlate to the way the speakers of the language itself view their own speech.
    - uneven - other languages are not so consistently denominated by geography rather than language.
    - grammatically singular - in normal usage in French, the adjective relating to a language when nominalised refers to the name of that language.
    - unnecessary - other terms such as "anglais (EU)" exist to make the distinction if this is the main aim.
     
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    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    it's not for foreign speakers to decide the subsets of another language.
    Absolutely.

    However, what is interesting is why the distinction exists. It is also perfectly legitimate to point out that questions of consistency arise if the distinction is only being made in respect of varieties of English.

    I am sorry if JeanDeSponde thinks I am being jingoistic as that is the very last thing I am. The last part of my previous post was just poking a little fun and as far as I am concerned followed what went before rather than being the starting point. All nations have absurd manifestations of nationalism.

    There are many varieties of English throughout the world. The two most significant (at least in terms of number of speakers) are American English and British English. These two varieties (and I am referring to the "standard" versions) are so close to each other that even the word variety seems a misnomer. The differences likely to be encountered regularly are generally well known and are no barrier to mutual intelligibility. Minor spelling differences aside, who can tell whether contributions to this forum are in American or British English?

    If the French (or at least those who publish books) want to give American English and British English different names that imply they are different languages then it is not something I am going to get excited about. I do however pose the following questions:

    1. Why is it felt necessary to distinguish between the two varieties in the context of specifying the language from which a text is translated?

    2. Is this sort of distinction made when translating from other varieties of English? If not, why not when in some cases these will be further apart from American English and British English than either is from each other?

    3. Is this sort of distinction made when translating from languages other than English, e.g. "traduit de l'autrichien"? If not, why not?
     

    LMorland

    Senior Member
    American English
    Some Americans say ''Sorry, I don't speak Mexican'' when immigrants ask them something in Spanish only.
    Yes, some do, and it's highly insulting! Anybody who utters that phrase is usually an anti-immigrant bigot. So that practice should not be used to support idea that foreigners should be encouraged to create names of languages that don't exist.

    Mon vieil ami, JdS, I think that you misunderstand me. You write:
    LMorland, just like Hulalessar (and others in this thread) you are following the same (too) simple line of reasoning:
    - French are known to dislike the English culture (nationalism being a French-only disease of course)
    - French are known to be presumptuous
    - French say traduit de l'américain, which is wrong
    - Hence French are doing it because they are presumptuous nationalists.
    Honestly, JdS, having lived in France for nine years, I am one of the greatest defenders of the French people you'll ever find. (And sorry, but it's often necessary. :rolleyes:) I have never found the French to be presumptuous. You (they) may be, but I haven't experienced it personally.

    As for your point #1, the French like English-speaking culture all too well. Just take a look at your TV listings sometime: there's not a hit show in the U.S. that can't be seen in France. And while my personal sympathies lie more towards those of José Bové, I'd just point out that France is the #2 nation worldwide for McDonald's sales, after the U.S.! And pick up a copy of Elle: in some issues, on every single fashion page there's a word (or words) in English. Parce que c'est cool, quoi ?

    It is true that (point #3) it is wrong to write traduit de l'américain. Personally I don't care so much why the great maisons d'édition françaises are doing it. I just want them to stop!
     
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    CapnPrep

    Senior Member
    AmE
    - inaccurate - other languages other than English are spoken in America and English is spoken in more countries than England.
    Then the term anglais/English is already inaccurate, since languages other than English are spoken in England. What to do?
    - open to offence (= receiving offence) - this does not correlate to the way the speakers of the language itself view their own speech.
    I am a speaker of English. If a French person asks me if I speak anglais, I say yes. I am a speaker of American English. If a French speaker asks me if I speak américain, I say yes. But if I understand you correctly, your response would be to take offense and inform them that this second question is "nonsense at best, and presumptuous at worst". But is it really up to you, a speaker of British English, to decide how I should view my own speech?
    - grammatically singular - in normal usage in French, the adjective relating to a language when nominalised refers to the name of that language.
    In normal French usage, the adjective formed from a geographical name, when used as a masculine singular noun, refers to what the people in that geographical area speak. Whether this is understood to be a separate language or a dialect/variety of a larger language is determined by context and world knowledge and is in no way predictable from the grammar alone. The TLF, for example, defines américain as a "parler anglais", while anglais is defined as a "langue". (I know, you don't care what the dictionary says. :rolleyes:)
    - partisan - other countries using the English language are not so consistently given a terminology that refers to their geography rather than their language, and the treatment of one's language is very emotive.
    […]
    - uneven - other languages are not so consistently denominated by geography rather than language.
    Languages develop richer terminology for things that are more salient (bigger, more frequent, more important, more dangerous, etc.) because they get talked about more and their properties/subtypes become more apparent. Like it or not, some countries and some languages are more present in the minds of speakers than others. There's nothing really to be done about this. I mean, you can encourage French speakers to become collectively more aware of the particularities of the English spoken in the Bahamas, or remind them that hey, Albanian is spoken in several countries and has several distinct varieties, but it won't have much effect. Or you can ask them to stop paying so much attention to the United States, but I don't think they'll do that either.
    - unnecessary - other terms such as "anglais (EU)" exist to make the distinction if this is the main aim.
    Yes, many terms exist; each one of them, taken individually, is unnecessary.
     
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    terredepomme

    Senior Member
    Korean
    I can't remember which novel it was, but in a French novel I've read a character says something like "c'est en américain." So it's not confined to the translation issue; not so much nowadays, but the word américain was used even in daily speech to designate AmE.
    So the thing is, as I have already explained, French people were not used to seperating the concept of anglais(people) and the anglais(language). At least the older people were back in the days, probably. Also consider the fact that the French still refer to the British (erroneously) as the Anglais instead of Britanniques unlike in the anglosphere where one would always say "British English" and almost never "English English." Hence all the more confusion. So they just used this word to avoid confusion, and this misusage just got stuck with time. That's all.
    As for other languages like Austrian German or Mexican Spanish, I'll just say that they never were really significant in France so they never got a chance to become "exceptions."
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Then the term anglais/English is already inaccurate, since languages other than English are spoken in England. What to do?
    Specious argument, as I suspect you know, since English is a recognised language and American isn't. English as a language doesn't claim to be restricted to a country called England. This is irrelevant in criticising the need to denominate the language spoken by people in a different geographical area with a new name just because they are in a different geographical area. Well, just specious as I said earlier.
    I am a speaker of English. If a French person asks me if I speak anglais, I say yes. I am a speaker of American English. If a French speaker asks me if I speak américain, I say yes. But if I understand you correctly, your response would be to take offense and inform them that this second question is "nonsense at best, and presumptuous at worst". But is it really up to you, a speaker of British English, to decide how I should view my own speech?
    You're confusing where the conversation is starting there. In the first case a French person asks you if you speak English. In the second a French person asks you if you speak américain. Your reaction as a native speaker to those questions is your own. Mine is that it is - well see my list above. If you would prefer to say spontaneously that you speak "American", then that's your right. If someone asks you which language you speak and you reply "American" then that makes you odd, but your right nonetheless. Irrelevant in examining if the French question "tu parles américain ?" is correct or not.
    In normal French usage, the adjective formed from a geographical name, when used as a masculine singular noun, refers to what the people in that geographical area speak. Whether this is understood to be a separate language or a dialect/variety of a larger language is determined by context and world knowledge and is in no way predictable from the grammar alone. The TLF, for example, defines américain as a "parler anglais", while anglais is defined as a "langue". (I know, you don't care what the dictionary says. :rolleyes:)
    As you say so well with the ":rolleyes:" this is proof by French dictionary. Pass the salt - I think we need a pinch of it.

    Languages develop richer terminology for things that are more salient etc---
    Again this is specious. Yes, I'm not blind to why the French do this with the English spoken in the USA and not that spoken in the Bahamas - doesn't make it correct nonetheless.


    Yes, many terms exist; each one of them, taken individually, is unnecessary.
    But only one of them has so many problems attached to it.
     
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    CapnPrep

    Senior Member
    AmE
    This is irrelevant in criticising the need to denominate the language spoken by people in a different geographical area with a new name just because they are in a different geographical area.
    … and because they speak differently. Perhaps only a bit differently, but enough to make américain/"American English" a concept worth having a term for.
    Yes, I'm not blind to why the French do this with the English spoken in the USA and not that spoken in the Bahamas - doesn't make it correct nonetheless.
    It doesn't make it incorrect, either.
    As you say so well with the ":rolleyes:" this is proof by French dictionary.
    Whereas you are providing proof by what? Dogged repetition?
     
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    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    … and because they speak differently. Perhaps only a bit differently, but enough to make américain/"American English" a concept worth having a term for.
    You're confusing what language the conversation is in. Nowhere did I say I would ever say "I speak American" in English. I would say Je parle américain in French.
    Whereas you are providing proof by what? Dogged repetition?
    On iPhone now so not able to reply easily with quotes. Answering above in order -

    - irrelevant. No one said there shouldn't be a different term. It's the term chosen that's the problem.

    - then what are you talking about? I'm not commenting on how you, an American, reply to that French question. The point of the thread isn't what you would reply to such a question but about the question itself. Indeed, you'd be speaking good French if you did say je parle américain, I'd expect nothing less given your point of view. It's clear that you have no problem with this question - doesn't stop others not liking it and explaining why.

    - not sure what you mean here. I'm answering your points. Not aware of doggedly repeating myself but if I am it must be that you're doggedly repeating your arguments.

    Ps - just noticed how often phones incorrectly replace spelling - tried to correct but if I've missed one please don't assume it's a spelling mistake of mine!!
     
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    CapnPrep

    Senior Member
    AmE
    The point of the thread isn't what you would reply to such a question but about the question itself. It's clear that you have no problem with this question - doesn't stop others not liking it and explaining why.
    If you don't like the term américain, fine. You don't even have to explain why. But your position in this thread goes well beyond your personal opinion. You have claimed that the word américain is formally invalid, because its very grammatical form implies the existence of an American language. But in reality it implies no such thing. You have objected to américain in normative terms ("wrong", "incorrect"); such judgments require an appeal to some linguistic authority, but you refuse to acknowledge the authority of French and bilingual dictionaries, which all contradict you. So I am still waiting for some justification of your statements, or an admission that all you wanted to say from the beginning was "I don't like it".
     

    LMorland

    Senior Member
    American English
    You have claimed that the word américain is formally invalid, because its very grammatical form implies the existence of an American language. But in reality it implies no such thing.
    CapnPrep, simply because French dictionaries state that américain can (among a multitude of other meanings) mean "English spoken in America" does not mean that it is an accurate way to refer to American English. Dictionaries, as you very well know, follow usage, and the term américain has become a part of French usage now. There's no denying it.

    One can still wish to proscribe it, however!

    The point is, as Tim has made more than once, it's not up to other countries to decide how a foreign people call their official language. How about if I started saying, "Oh, I'm going to Vienna/Montevideo/Christchurch, so I'm going to study Austrian/Uruguayan/New Zealandish." A French person saying je vais étudier l'américain sounds just as ridiculous to me. {In fact, on one of my first visits to Paris, back in the 80s (well before I moved there), I saw a poster near Beaubourg offering lessons in "American." It struck me as so outlandish that I took a photo of it.}

    Further, as I have pointed out earlier, this French practice of choosing their own name for the language spoken by the majority of (but by no means all) residents of the United States actually causes confusion amongst French people. See my post #22. This confusion even hurts employment opportunities for Americans, because many French assume that they are not competent to teach or translate English. They draw this conclusion, naturally enough, from the fact that they use a different name for what we speak in the U.S., even though we ourselves refer to our language as "English".

    Finally, you cited the CNTRL. Here's another definition on the same page:
    1. LING. Langues américaines. Ensemble des langues parlées par les autochtones du continent américain.
    Which leads us to an ancillary problem. The term "America" refers to the continents of North and South America. The language spoken by the majority of people on these continents is not English!
     
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    JeanDeSponde

    Senior Member
    France, Français
    As I said very early on in this thread, it's not for foreign speakers to decide the subsets of another language.
    This is exactly where your "language nerve" is misleading you. This thread has amply proved that we are not subsetting languages, we are adding civilization to language information.
    If you read traduit de l'américain as "american is a language", then your French is weak here. You read the text and ignore the subtext.
    When I read French fries, French Letter, French kiss, Pardon my French, I can read the subtext, and I don't complain that you see us as a bunch of potato-eating people prone to weird sex while uttering dirty words!
    And I don't complain either that you are using "French something" wrongly, though foreign speakers should not decide about French issues...
    Mon vieil ami, JdS, I think that you misunderstand me. [...] I have never found the French to be presumptuous.
    Yet the words presumptuous / presumptuousness have been used very often in this thread. I can understand why you think we are wrong with américain, but why presumptuous?
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    This thread has amply proved that we are not subsetting languages, we are adding civilization to language information.
    Possibly, but the the question is: are you doing it consistently and if not, why not?

    The evidence from this thread so far is that this desire to "add civilisation" only applies when the original work is written in English by an American. If that is the case, it is, as I said, interesting to speculate why.

    What follows may lead to accusations of national stereotyping, but I shall risk it.

    A few years before the French Revolution Antoine de Rivarol famously said in an essay: "Ce qui n'est pas clair n'est pas français". Less often quoted are the words that followed: "Ce qui n'est pas clair est encore anglais, italien, grec ou latin." He also argued that French grammar followed "la logique naturelle à tous les hommes". It is all risible nonsense, but I fear the attitude is still prevalent. If anyone objects I refer them to the words of Maurice Druon of the Académie Française who as recently as 2007 said: "L'italien est la langue des chansons, l'allemand est bon pour la philosophie et l'anglais pour la poésie. Le français est une langue plus précise et rigoureuse." He may have been be a little less dismissive than Antoine de Rivarol, but it is still nonsense.

    However, if for a moment we assume that French is "precise and rigorous" we can ask if precision and rigour is being achieved. I do not think it is, not only because of the inconsistency, but also because a distinction is being made that is only partly valid and potentially misleading since it is quite possible for American and British writers to produce lengthy texts where it is impossible to determine the nationality of the author.

    So, I think we can legitimately ask what is going on here. Is it simply one of those things that has come about for no real reason? If that is the case it does not need to be justified. However, if there is some logic behind it then the three questions I posed above need to be answered.
     

    CapnPrep

    Senior Member
    AmE
    The point is, as Tim has made more than once, it's not up to other countries to decide how a foreign people call their official language.
    The question is, where do you see this happening? French speakers can settle upon américain or yankee or hotdog-et-baseballien to refer to American English in French; this has absolutely no consequences for Americans and other English speakers (unless of course they happen to be speaking French, but even then they have alternatives). If you do not care to give a name to the variety of English spoken in the US, the community of French speakers is not forcing you to. If you do care to, no one is forcing you to call it "American" in English to parallel the French américain. If you catch a French speaker saying "American" in English, you can feel free to correct them or take a photo of them or otherwise be satisfied that their English is outlandish and wrong. You are right: They don't get to decide for you. But you don't get to decide for them either. In fact, no one gets to decide for anyone. The choice is between communicating successfully within established usages (which are not required to be the same from one language to the next), or being uncooperative, frustrated, and misunderstood.
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The question is, where do you see this happening? French speakers can settle upon américain or yankee or hotdog-et-baseballien to refer to American English in French; this has absolutely no consequences for Americans and other English speakers (unless of course they happen to be speaking French, but even then they have alternatives). If you do not care to give a name to the variety of English spoken in the US, the community of French speakers is not forcing you to. If you do care to, no one is forcing you to call it "American" in English to parallel the French américain. If you catch a French speaker saying "American" in English, you can feel free to correct them or take a photo of them or otherwise be satisfied that their English is outlandish and wrong. You are right: They don't get to decide for you. But you don't get to decide for them either. In fact, no one gets to decide for anyone. The choice is between communicating successfully within established usages (which are not required to be the same from one language to the next), or being uncooperative, frustrated, and misunderstood.
    I can go with you quite some way on that, but I think we have to ask: Is there a limit?

    How about this?

    French speakers draw a line on a map of England dividing it into north and south. They decide that in French all the dwellings south of the line are to be called "maisons" and all the dwellings north of the line are to be called "chaumières". Whilst I am prepared to concede that the French can do this if they wish, I still have to point out that they may be giving different names to identical dwellings.
     

    JeanDeSponde

    Senior Member
    France, Français
    The evidence from this thread so far is that [it] only applies when the original work is written in English by an American. If that is the case, it is, as I said, interesting to speculate why.
    It has already been speculated and answered many times in this thread, along with each of your three questions...

    And yes, what followed was good plain stereotyping - I hope for you it was a joke.
    We believe in Druon not more than you believe in G.W. Bush:
    "Neither in French nor in English nor in Mexican."
    George W. Bush, declining to take reporters' questions during a photo op with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, April 21, 2001
     

    CapnPrep

    Senior Member
    AmE
    I can go with you quite some way on that, but I think we have to ask: Is there a limit?
    The limit is also determined by what the speakers of the language collectively perceive to be useful. During the Cold War, the distinction between astronauts and cosmonauts was felt to be useful in English, but the Martians probably only had one word for them [Off-topic question moved to Martian Only forum]

    Similarly, what's the difference between a hurricane and a typhoon, and do we have the "right" to use two different terms in English if most of the languages spoken where these things actually happen make no such distinction?
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    The limit is also determined by what the speakers of the language collectively perceive to be useful. During the Cold War, the distinction between astronauts and cosmonauts was felt to be useful in English, but the Martians probably only had one word for them [Off-topic question moved to Martian Only forum]

    Similarly, what's the difference between a hurricane and a typhoon, and do we have the "right" to use two different terms in English if most of the languages spoken where these things actually happen make no such distinction?
    Of course we have the right. At the same time, others have the right to point out the oddness of it, particularly if we claim it is an example of our precision and increased accuracy while we still call earthquakes "earthquakes" no matter they occur on the planet.

    The strangest thing to me about the discussion is the resistance to recognizing the exception of "l'américain" as a language designator, just as "typhoon" is an exception in labeling weather phenomena. There may be nothing behind the exception, but it's still an exception, an oddity. To claim its an example of precision in the face of no similar precision in other areas makes the whole precision argument suspect.

    If someone asked why we had two words to describe hurricanes/typhoons I could explain that it has to do with location and that it's a matter of precision. If that person then asked me why we don't have a similar distinction in English for earthquakes, it would be a valid question, in my opinion. It points to an inconsistency in our labeling.

    Add to that the problem of misunderstanding the arbitary distinction of typhoon/hurricanes leading to people concluding "well, you only understand typhoons; this was a hurricane" and you get a closer parallel to what we're discussing here, in my opinion.

    Like others here, I have had the experience of someone from France saying, "No, this is a question about English. You speak American and I want to learn English." :rolleyes:
     
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    CapnPrep

    Senior Member
    AmE
    At the same time, others have the right to point out the oddness of it, particularly if we claim it is an example of our precision and increased accuracy while we still call earthquakes "earthquakes" no matter they occur on the planet.
    A terminological system that has several words for hurricane-type events but only one for earthquakes is, in fact, more precise than a system with only one word for hurricanes and one word for earthquakes. It is inconsistent/uneven/partial, but so what? Does that mean the language should be required to enrich its earthquake terminology, or forced to simplify its hurricane terminology? Or should we just recognize that language is inconsistent/uneven/partial? We have distinct words for male and female chickens and sheep and a few other animals. This is of course terribly unfair to crocodiles and scorpions and cuttlefish, but is there really anything to complain about here?

    If someone says "I'm allergic to chicken, so I bought a roasting hen instead," there is certainly a problem, but is the solution to conclude that the English term hen is unnecessarily opaque and should be eliminated in favor of the transparent expression female chicken, or to say that this person just needs to learn English better?
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    A terminological system that has several words for hurricane-type events but only one for earthquakes is, in fact, more precise than a system with only one word for hurricanes and one word for earthquakes.
    In what way? If the hurricanes themselves are the same and we are designating them one thing or another based solely on location, how is it more precise? You could argue that it lets us know which hemisphere it occurred in but if it leads to the idea that they are different types of events then it is not more precise. By introducing the labels you have decreased its precision, unless you're equating "precision" with quantity of labels. I don't think they are one and the same.

    If I call it a chicken if it's in the front yard but a hen if it's in the back, that is not more precise. That is confusing location with identity. That is not clarity of thought.
     
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    JeanDeSponde

    Senior Member
    France, Français
    The strangest thing to me about the discussion is the resistance to recognizing the exception of "l'américain" as a language designator [...]. To claim its an example of precision in the face of no similar precision in other areas makes the whole precision argument suspect.
    Two pennies (pence?) have not dropped, it seems.
    1st penny - "as a language designator" is where you're wrong.
    The (intended) precision is not in the language, it is in the background - language cum civilization.
    We are of course wrong about the language - but we are (roughly) right about the country.
    2nd penny - as to why "américain" and not e.g. "australien", you fail to grasp the sheer volume of American material (movies, books, soaps, music etc.) we choose to be confronted with vs. Australian, New-Zealand or whatever. You have decided to ignore the "a civilization of its own" aspect, I don't have to apologize for your ignorance.
    If the French who don't know anything about your language were the same people responsible for traduit de l'américain, I would agree with you.
    But this is not the case. Professional translators (most of them in love with your language) are perfectly aware of the issue, and the fact that other French people think American and English are separate languages is not at stake - they have no voice here.
    If traduit de l'américain is misleading our ignoramuses, OK, we will change it - once you've stopped using French kiss or pardon my French, which are misleading plain US citizens into seeing us as swearing sex perverts...
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Even as "language cum civilization" it is an anomaly, JeanDeSponde. Giving that answer doesn't explain the anomaly, but we've had this discussion before so I don't think there's any headway to be made there. Can you name another designation in common use that is "language cum civilization"?

    If traduit de l'américain is misleading our ignoramuses, OK, we will change it - once you've stopped using French kiss or pardon my French, which are misleading plain US citizens into seeing us as swearing sex perverts...
    :) Oh come on now, your countrymen have gotten a lot of mileage out of that stereotype... ;) If you have to be stereotyped, at least it's something sexy. "Sexy American tourist" sounds like an oxymoron. :)
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    Well, 129 posts and we haven't gotten anywhere. I think it's clear the French are not going to change their "Américain" any more than we're going to stop saying French fries, despite the exasperation of Belgians who deplore that their national dish (see the active thread on nationalities in the culture café) could be considered French. If anything "Américain" is more widely used than ever.
    I personally hate it and it's one of my pet peeves and if I get a chance I let people know, see any of the posts I have made earlier on. Is it merely an ellipsis of English from the expression "Anglais Américain"? Probably... I won't question it. How else are they going to translate "Américain" in bilingual dictionaries anyway? They are certainly not going to invent the term "American language" in English. I do think it's more than that though, and the fact that "Anglais" is missing form the "Américain" does skew perceptions, sometimes slightly, sometimes widely. I have witnessed it. In the least it makes people more aware of the differences than the vast similarities, since it is the same language.
    Is that real English or Americain? I usually ask them to define the difference and see what they come up with. Yet, I'm willing to admit it works out sometimes to my advantage. A lawyer once said to me: "Je voudrais apprendre l'Américain et certainement pas l'Anglais".
    Yes, I cringe when I see "Apprenez l'Américain sans peine" or "Traduit de l'Américain", but in the end.. what can you do about it? Have a laugh.
    Jean, isn't it true you all are sex perverts? :D
     
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    CapnPrep

    Senior Member
    AmE
    You could argue that it lets us know which hemisphere it occurred in but if it leads to the idea that they are different types of events then it is not more precise.
    If someone thinks hurricanes and typhoons are different types of events, they don't know the meanings of the words and/or they have an incomplete knowledge of this aspect of the world. Speakers are fully capable of associating two distinct terms to entities of the same type. English doesn't use the expressions cobra snake and adder snake, but you are still supposed to know that cobras and adders are both, in fact, snakes. As a speaker of the language, you are expected to know the meanings of commonly used terms, even if this meaning is not spoon-fed to you.

    Américain is a common term in French. As a French speaker, you are expected to know that américain is a type of anglais, even if the name doesn't say so explicitly. Insisting on the systematic use of a longer, more explicit term is like saying that panda bear should never be shortened to panda because someone somewhere might fail to learn what it means. Or that polar bear should be expanded to North polar bear because the current, imprecise name leads some English speakers into thinking that they live at both poles.
    If I call it a chicken if it's in the front yard but a hen if it's in the back, that is not more precise. That is confusing location with identity.
    If you have some reason to care whether your bird is in the front yard or the back, then the location becomes part of its identity, and you may very well come up with two distinct terms for it. Your terminological system may be unusual/unexpected and require explanation, and even after explanation someone else may fail to grasp the meanings of the terms or assume that they mean something else or insist that you can't possibly mean that, why in the world would you want to say that, or that it's a fine system but they would prefer if you used different terms etc. etc. That doesn't change the fact that it is a useful and precise system for you.
     

    L'irlandais

    Senior Member
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    ...Similarly, what's the difference between a hurricane and a typhoon, and do we have the "right" to use two different terms in English if most of the languages spoken where these things actually happen make no such distinction?
    Just as the French are perfectly entitled to their publishing practices, then why not two words to define a subtle difference in tropical cyclones origins?
    The fact that the Spaniards introduced the word to the English language is the reason that our word "hurricane" generally refers to tropical cyclones that have their origin in the Caribbean or Atlantic. When the same type of storm has its origin in the Pacific, it is known as a typhoon (originally a Greek word), or tifón in Spanish. (There is a slight difference in the way the way the storms are categorized in the languages. In Spanish, a tifón generally is considered to be a huracán that forms in the Pacific, while in English "hurricane" and "typhoon" are considered to be separate types of storms, even though the only difference is where they form.)

    source
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Just as the French are perfectly entitled to their publishing practices...
    Indeed they are. The point is that it is a publishing practice rather than use of language comparable with, say, dividing up the colour spectrum in different ways. It is more comparable to the practice of considering a horse to be a year older every 1st January irrespective of when it was actually born.

    The instructive, if not mildly amusing, thing about this thread is watching people in a hole digging themselves further in. It is not so much that they are trying to justify something that is unjustifiable, but that they are going to such lengths to justify something that really needs no justification.
     

    CapnPrep

    Senior Member
    AmE
    Hulalessar, do you think that the people who say they find traduit de l'américain offensive, annoying, illiterate, presumptuous, weird, naive, inaccurate, nationalistic, nonsense, wrong, … would be satisfied with the response "It's just a publishing practice that exists for no real reason and really needs no justification"? I doubt it, especially since I don't think that this statement is true. Publishers print this expression on book title pages in part because it corresponds to everyday French usage, and many posters in this thread object more generally to this usage, i.e. using américain as a noun to refer to what Americans speak/write (which happens to be a kind of English).
     

    TitTornade

    Senior Member
    My harrap's English-French dictionary has two prefaces : one in English that indicates some distinctions between "American English" and "British English" and the other in French that indicates the same distinction between "l'américain" and "l'anglais britannique"... C'est l'usage !

    Whatever the psychoanalysis of French customs, minds, way of thinking, you won't change "l'usage" which make the correctness....
     

    Istriano

    Senior Member
    Croatian
    you won't change "l'usage" which make the correctness....
    But many Spanish, Italian (and other) newspapers use carioca as a general synonym for (any) Brazilian which is ugly.
    Carioca is a person living in the city of Rio de Janeiro, it should not be used as a synonym for any other Brazilian.
    We do have an alternative form for Brazil which is tupiniquim, so use this form instead, if you want to use a native American word.


    Incorrect usage hurts our feelings. We don't call the Spanish: madrileños , Argentinians porteños or Italians romanos.

    'traduit de l'américain' looks so inelegant and unsophisticated.

    By the way, I'd love to know whether they label books in Canadian French as traduit du quebecois, too.
    :)
     
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    CapnPrep

    Senior Member
    AmE
    Carioca is a person living in the city of Rio de Janeiro, it should not be used as a synonym for any other Brazilian.
    This is the opposite situation: Other languages/cultures failing to understand/enforce a distinction that is important in your language/culture. Other examples have already been brought up in this thread: calling Scottish people "English", calling Canadians "Americans", calling Ireland "British", saying that people from Maastricht speak "Holländisch", saying that Belgians speak "Belgisch", etc. All of these deserve — and probably already have — their own threads in CD, but they are not particularly relevant here, unless what we're doing in this thread is simply listing a bunch of things that, for whatever reason, "they" should stop saying about "us". (In which case, Pedro y La Torre, this is only the beginning…)
     

    L'irlandais

    Senior Member
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    ... do you think that the people who say they find traduit de l'américain offensive, annoying, illiterate, presumptuous, weird, naive, inaccurate, nationalistic, nonsense, wrong, … would be satisfied with the response "It's just a publishing practice that exists for no real reason and really needs no justification"?...
    CapnPrep,
    Not wishing to curtail this discussion, but... what does it matter what any Americian (or anybody else) feels about this particular French usage? Ok this discussion thread lets them express their opinion, and that's fine, they're entitled to their opinion. However as TitTornade pointed out that's not going to change the way French people use "traduit de l'américain". Next time somebody gets upset by it, just do your best gallic shrug and say "C'est comme ça." Point, barre, à la ligne. :)
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Isn't that precisely the reason you started the discussion? :)

    From your opening post:

    L'irlandais said:
    So I would like to know what other people think of this: what does 'américain' mean to francophones, what connotations does the term have, and why do you think it is used? (The books never say traduit de l’anglais américain.) And what do Americans think? Are you offended, flattered or indifferent? And do such distinctions appear in other countries?
    Be careful what you ask for. ;)
     

    L'irlandais

    Senior Member
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    ...So I would like to know what other people think of this: what does 'américain' mean to francophones, what connotations does the term have, and why do you think it is used? (The books never say traduit de l’anglais américain.) And what do Americans think? Are you offended, flattered or indifferent? And do such distinctions appear in other countries?...
    Not guilty your Honour. It were Aupick, wot done it.:)
     

    Istriano

    Senior Member
    Croatian
    I think the French are doing this on purpose, they want to separate English (or make it look this way) by breaking it into countless number of dialects (divide et impera).
    They want English weak, and French strong. It's called jealousy. ;)


    "traduit du brésilien" coelho site:fr 43 hits
    "traduit du portugais " coelho site:fr 34,300 hits

    :) They sure seem to like translating Coelho from Portuguese, rather than from Brazilian.
    Double standards here?
     
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    CapnPrep

    Senior Member
    AmE
    They sure seem to like translating Coelho from Portuguese, rather than from Brazilian.
    Double standards here?
    I gather from your previous message (#31) that if publishers always used traduit du brésilien, you would also be unhappy. The French just can't do anything right, can they?
    I think the French are doing this on purpose, they want to separate English (or make it look this way) by breaking it into countless number of dialects (divide et impera).
    They want English weak, and French strong. It's called jealousy. ;)
    Again, you can't have it both ways. Do they inconsistently and anomalously reserve this special treatment for American English alone [a recurring complaint in this thread], or do they purposefully break English up into a countless number of dialects?
    So I would like to know what other people think of this: […] why do you think [américain] is used? […] And what do Americans think? Are you offended, flattered or indifferent?
    According to the CD forum guidelines, these parts of Aupick's original post should have been ignored. This forum is not "a place to advocate or promote personal viewpoints about the way things ought to be", and "responses must contain more than personal opinions".
     

    Jasmine tea

    Senior Member
    French - France
    I have been following this thread lately. And it has been making me think quite a bit, wondering what the true issue was, here. Thinking about why it was such a major drama that a one and only language shall be seen as two different languages (and named accordingly) or not.

    This morning I realized that each time I had faced this kind of issue it was when one country speaking one language broke into two countries. Each of these two countries happened to evolve in its own way and the language spoken as well. Sometimes, voluntarily the languages where differentiated.

    I will take an example a Croatian friend had explained to me in details some years ago. When the ex-Yugoslavian communities first started to want to break Yugoslavia into several countries (as it had been in the past…), their first move was to work on the revival and differentiation of their own languages. Therefore papers started to be published in what was, for example, pure Croatian rather than Yugoslavian language. If the police stopped a car and the driver used the word passport, they would pretend not to understand, saying that they did not speak Serb language and that they recommended the use of the Croatian equivalent of the word passport…

    And now, with regard to this type of examples I am wondering why Americans are not very proud that American English shall be called “américain” by the French, who in this way recognize their full independence and existence as a separate country… As we all know, of course, the French were very willing to see the Americans achieve their independence, back then, “fighting” the English in some ways.

    I don't know if what I say here will make sense to you... Sorry for my awkward English.
     

    JeanDeSponde

    Senior Member
    France, Français
    The core of this thread is "there is no such thing as the American language; so those French are wrong, whatever they say."
    Let me discuss this, by drawing a parallel with the word race (F & E) taken in its "genetics" meaning.
    Genetically speaking, most people know that we all share the same genes (one race), or that each of us is a race of its own (we're all different) - depending on where you place the boundary.
    The concept of "black race", asian race", "caucasian race" is known to be as groundless that of an "American language".

    Though one can easily find in US newspapers such statements as:
    ...These articles and too many others have failed to take account of the fact that nearly half of the Hispanic population is white in every social sense of this term; 48 percent of so-called Hispanics classified themselves as solely white, giving only one race to the census taker. Although all reports routinely note that ''Hispanics can be of any race,'' they almost always go on to neglect this critical fact, treating Hispanics as if they were, in fact, a sociological race comparable to ''whites'' and ''blacks.''
    Are Americans wrong about races, as we French are about languages?...

    No. Race is versatile, and can be used in biology or sociology (or census) with different subtexts.
    Many French don't understand the way races are distinguished in the US; they usually lack the subtext.

    And traduit de l'américain is genetically wrong (Americans speak English), but sociologically right.
    Yes, it may mislead some into thinking that American is not English: just like speaking of Hispanic race, Caucasian race or black race can lead to other unwanted problems.
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I was initially persuaded that this was a case of one language making a distinction that other languages may not make and that on that account it ought not be challenged. On reflection, I am not convinced that it is the case, though I am open to be persuaded that it is. In English (as indeed in French) we make a distinction between "watch" and "clock"; some languages do not and where the distinction exists it has arisen without anyone deciding to make the distinction. The question is whether the use of "américain" to mean "anglais américain" simply emerged or was deliberate.

    If the distinction emerged then the answer to any criticism is simply to say: "This is how it is. We are not quite sure how it happened."

    If the distinction is deliberate the French are still entitled to stick to it, but ought to be prepared to offer an explanation of why the distinction is made and justify the inconsistencies that have been highlighted.

    The feeling that I think is coming out from some posters is that since there is a lot of justification sloshing about it sort of follows (though not necessarily logically) that the distinction is deliberate. If you form that impression the next step is to ask why.
     

    JeanDeSponde

    Senior Member
    France, Français
    If the distinction is deliberate the French are still entitled to stick to it, but ought to be prepared to offer an explanation of why the distinction is made and justify the inconsistencies that have been highlighted.
    Hulalessar, I suggest you read the whole thread at least once before demanding explanations and justifications that have already been given...
     

    JeanDeSponde

    Senior Member
    France, Français
    Then simply say that you're not convinced by them, not that we "ought to be prepared to offer an explanation [and justification]" which sounds like we dodged the question from the prosecution.
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Then simply say that you're not convinced by them, not that we "ought to be prepared to offer an explanation [and justification]" which sounds like we dodged the question from the prosecution.
    J'accuse!

    You have not answered the questions except by answering questions that were not asked and employing diversionary tactics.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    As I understand it, the explanation is that l'américain is both a sociological distinction as well as a distinction in language, that l'américain is the exception to the rule in French and that we should be honored by this distinction because it recognizes both our culture and our language in one word.

    Have I got it right?
     
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