Of week days, gods and planets

Monday is “Moon Day”, Saturday is Saturn Day, Sunday is, well, Sun day. Ever wonder what happened to Tuesday to Friday? Probably not but here’s an opportunity to find out.

While immersion learning is best, comparing two languages also has benefits: it can assist in vocabulary retention and help understand how words are formed. Following the French tradition, I will start my week on Monday.

So how do English and French compare on the names of the days?

In French, most week days are named after a planet, or to be precise, a Roman God. Monday and Sunday (dimanche) are the two exceptions. The syllabe “di” refers to the latin word dies (day).

Lundi/Monday: from “la lune” (the moon), very similar to “Mo(o)nday”

Mardi/Tuesday: mardi comes from the Latin “day of Mars”, the Roman God of war.

Tuesday also means “day of Mars” but comes from Old English “day of Tiw”, Tiw being the Germanic equivalent to the Roman Mars.


Mercredi/Wednesday
: jour de Mercure “day of Mercury”, the messenger of the Gods. He’s the one with the winged sandals.

Wednesday is day of the Germanic Woden (Odin).

Jeudi/Thursday: jour de Jupiter, who was Mercury’s father bu the way.

Thursday: day of Thor, God of Thunder, equivalent to the Rome’s Jupiter.

Vendredi/Friday: jour de Vénus.

Friday: day of Frigga, who was Odin’s wife. Frigga is the Germanic equivalent of the Roman Venus.

Samedi/Saturday: interestingly, the one day that starts with the same syllable in both languages is one that has a completely different origin. Samedi is “le jour du Chabbat”, day of Sabbath. Sabbath being the weekly holy day of rest in the Hebrew calendar.

Saturday is simply Saturn day.

Dimanche/Sunday: from the latin dies dominicus, day of God, ot represents the day of rest in several religions. The English version follows the planets (or stars in this case) theme. Sunday became the equivalent Sonntag in German.

While there can be differences in the words and their origins depending on the language, one thing is for sure: Mondays and lundis feel the same, no matter what you call them. Thankfully, there is always another vendredi around the corner!

When a goat has a gender issue

Gender issue: should you say “la chèvre” (the goat) or “le chèvre”? Well, it depends on what you want to say. The animal is designated using the feminine “la”. We use “le chèvre” when we talk about goat cheese. It is simply a quicker way of saying “le fromage de chèvre”. So “manger du chèvre” is very different from “manger de la chèvre” in which case you’re eating goat meat, not goat cheese.

The French habit of “backwards” talking

“Speaking backwards” would translate in French as “parler à l’envers”. The phrase “à l’envers” has been turned, well, backwards and became many years ago “verlan”, a new way of talking. Some backwards words have since been used so frequently that they are now an integral part of the spoken French language. Speaking verlan is mostly done by young people but many words are now used by all generations. Wikipedia has a good article on verlan so check it out if you want to know more about it. The purpose of this post is to present some of the most common examples of words that are now very commonly used.

un keuf: verlan for flic (cop)

une meuf: verlan for femme (woman)

beur: verlan for arabe (generally refers to people of North African descent). Interestingly, the verlan word has itself been “verlanised” into reubeu. Note that those terms are not racist in any way.

 

Same word, different meaning: les faux amis en Français

Through the evolution of the world’s languages, there have been many cross overs, words that have been adopted from one language to another. They can be identical or very similar. In either case, our natural tendency is to aplly the meaning that our own language lends that word. Sometimes, those familiar words are true “amis” (friends) but many times they end up being faux-amis. Here are some examples:

#1 chat: (shah) means cat, nothing to do with talking.
#2 éventuellement: means possible, not eventually.

Treacherous “liaisons”

I’m afraid this is not as exciting a topic as what you might have expected.  My apologies. The French word “liaison” conveys the meaning of connection between two things, two people or, as is the subject of this post, two words. Sorry Mesdames et Messieurs.

Try to stay with me for a minute. The subject is quite a snoozer but the rules are pretty simple and it’s something that is super common so your French Immersion little champion should become familiar with how that works.

In French, unlike in English, the last letter of a word is often muted: dit, as in (il dit = he says) is pronounced “dee” and not “deet”. The t is silent. That is until it is a consonant and the next word starts with a vowel.  In “Il dit à haute voix” (he says out loud): dit à is pronounced “deetah” which sounds better to us than “deeah”.

The s at the end of a word “liaises” to the next word (provided it start with a vowel) as a z sound, as does x: dix amis (10 friends) becomes “deezahmee”.

An n at the end of a word gets verbally attached  to the next word if it starts with a vowel, even if that n is part of a composite sound in the first word (what??). An example should clarify: mon ami (my friend), verbally becomes mon nami. Get it? simple, right?

French wouldn’t be French without exceptions of course. We won’t get into details. It’s a small miracle that you made it this far down the page, I don’t want to lose you now! Let’s keep it to one common situation. After “tu” (you), a verb ends with an s but a word coming after starting with a vowel wouldn’t be “liaised”. It makes sense since it wouldn’t flow well. Just trust me on that.

Now why “treacherous” you’ve been wondering? Even though most people spell most words right, oral French tricks us into making some liaisons that are not correct. Here are a couple of common ones. Keep in mind that while they are obvious when you write them, they are sometimes not when you hear them:

– Cent ans (one hundred years) is mispronounced cen -z-ans). Same thing with “huit ans” (8 years).

– quatre écoles: liaised with a z sound as well. Not good.

Now when your language prodigy reads you a French story tonight, keep an eye out for liaison possibilities. It will take his or her verbal skills to the new level.

 

A bientôt!