Illogical French

I love languages because you can always, always learn new things, whether it’s your native language or your second or third (or fourth or fifth, or sixteenth, you show-off).

I ponder words constantly. French makes me laugh. English makes me laugh. I’m frustrating to French speakers, because I always want to know why. Why is “start-up” feminine? (Yes, “start-up” in French is “la start-up.”) Why is the feminine of “rigolo” “rigolote”? Sometimes I get cut off from asking questions. “Non, chérie! Tu poses trop de questions!” You ask too many questions! No more for the rest of the day!

Here’s something I learned tonight that I’ll be pondering for awhile. Christmas Island is “l’Ile Christmas” in French. But Easter Island is “l’Ile de Pâques.” Why?! Why translate Easter (Pâques) but not Christmas (Noël)?! It’s illogical!

In case you were wondering where these islands actually are, like me.
Christmas Island and Easter Island are so far apart, they can barely fit on Google Maps at the same time.

And here’s another thing. Apparently, when speaking French, FBI is pronounced as it is in English (eff-be-eye) but CIA is Frenchified (say-ee-ah). I hypothesized that it’s because in the movies, people bust down doors and shout “Eff Be Eye!” and while the CIA is often mentioned in movies, it isn’t shouted individually with the same enthusiasm. (Or is it? I don’t watch enough action movies to be sure.)

Does this bother anyone else?

No? Just me?

What else about French is illogical? I could go on.

(English, of course, is a perfectly logical language with no irregularities.)

What amuses you about French or English? (Or Spanish or German or Swahili or Chinese…)

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8 thoughts on “Illogical French

    1. You’re right! Why must it be so complicated? It’s funny that in Swiss French, they say the numbers differently! What is it? Septente, huitante, nonante?

      1. English, Spanish or even Chinese are logic for the numbers! I would really prefer the Swiss way for the numbers. After 3 years I still suck at understanding telephone numbers lol

  1. I am french and i’m always asking me why the feminine of “salaud” is writing “salope”. French seems so illogical for many things, one more this is a very difficult language !

  2. The concept of gender in French is outdated and frankly, just totally arbitrary (aside from instances of natural gender like “il” and “elle” or “homme” and “femme” etc.) For example, if a feminine noun starts with a vowel it has to be preceded by a masculine possessive pronoun because the pronunciation will be too awkward. If that doesn’t reveal how arbitrary the whole thing is, I don’t know what else would.

    Also the French have to get busy inventing new words. Too many French words get recycled to mean multiple things, decipherable only in context. This is one of the main reasons that I (as a bilingual person) dislike reading in French. I find the French language’s relative inflexibility, in comparison to the great deal of linguistic license given to Anglophone authors, a bit dull frankly.

    French people, make up new words! Break your language’s silly rules! Modernize! À l’infer avec l’Academie!

    1. You’re completely right. Gender is so frustrating for non-native speakers. I agree that we tend to have a bit more creative license with words in English, which is lots of fun. But of course there are things that are better expressed in French too, so I like a nice mix of the two, personally. I will say there are some creative interpretations of English words integrated into French, but of course ze Academie does not approve!

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