Jour J: Counting down in French

Do you know how to count down to a big day in French? I learned this shortly after I moved to Paris from Chicago. I was teaching in a language school near Saint Lazare, and I had an adorable student about the same age as me. She was planning her wedding.

One day, while telling me about her upcoming nuptials, she mentioned “D-Day.” Wait, hold on. D-day? You’re calling your wedding day “D-Day?”

In French, you count down to a big day (your wedding day, the day you leave for a big vacation, the day you’re reunited with your long-distance sweetheart after time apart, etc) with the letter J + the number of days to go. J-5 = five days to go! J-4 = four days to go! J-1 = the big day’s tomorrow! And Jour J = the big day itself.

You can see how it would be easy to think that this translates to D-Day in English, but it doesn’t quite have the same connotation! If my fiancé referred to our wedding day as “D-Day” I would be a little worried. Wouldn’t you?

Which other expressions don’t translate well between French and English, or other languages?

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