Dung on toast, cheese on toast, whatever

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Following up on their recent article about Chinglish, the NYT has a collection of "Strange Signs From Abroad" contributed by readers, confirming that sign-makers in less far-away languages are also sometimes too trusting of dictionary entries in languages they don't know very well:

If you look up crottin in the Concise Oxford-Hachette French-English Dictionary, you'll find:

1. crottin nom masculin
( de cheval ) dung

And that's all. (Well, they did say it was concise.) Google Translate is even more concise: crottindung.

If you turn to the Pocket Oxford-Hachette French Dictionary, you do get a second (presumably figurative) sense:

1. dung;
2. (small round) goat's cheese.

But someone without much knowledge of English can be pardoned for believing what the dictionaries say, or at least what they say first, and translating crottin de chèvre sur toast as "goat dung on toast".

But English, though we do sometimes call horse droppings "road apples", we haven't made the figurative leap to small logs of goat cheese, and any native speaker would flag "goat dung on toast" as an unlikely ingredient for a salad.  As in the case of the many amusing Chinglish mistakes, however,  this translation was apparently not checked by anyone who knows much English.

[By the way, in this case the context doesn't help Google Translate: crottin de chèvre sur toast is rendered as "goat dung on toast".]



64 Comments

  1. Robert Coren said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 10:16 am

    For another example of a French menu with translations obviously not proofread by an English speaker, see this.

  2. David L said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 10:17 am

    Also puzzling to me here is the word 'toast.' In centuries of culinary experimentation, did no French person ever hit on the idea of putting a slice of bread on a fork and holding it in front of the fire? Is toast an Anglo-Saxon invention? Is the modern device for making toast 'un(e) toasteur'?

    Seriously, how come the French do not have a word for toast?

  3. marie-lucie said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 10:20 am

    "small logs of goat cheese"

    "Le crottin" is not just any dung but the type that is expelled in pellets, such as that of horses, goats, rabbits, and a few other animals. Although the more familiar types of goat cheese look like small logs, cheese "crottin" is squat and rounded. It does not have to be made of goat cheese, but goats produce much less milk than cows, so not much is available for cheese-making and goat cheeses are on the small side.

    A single pellet of dung is "une crotte", and this word is also used for chocolates: a box of chocolates contains a number of "crottes de chocolat", in various shapes but typically small enough to be a single mouthful.

    About the lack of inclusion of this meaning in a dictionary, I checked in my trusty Petit Robert (a 1968 edition which is now badly in need of a replacement on my shelf) and while both "crotte" and "crottin" are included, I was shocked to see that their culinary meaning is not. "Crottin" cheeses have become more fashionable in recent years, but "crottes de chocolat" have been around for quite a long time.

    [(myl) Thanks, Marie-Lucie! This is typical of the lexical knowledge that only (near) native speakers have. I knew that crottin is a diminutive form of crotte, and that the base meaning of crotte is roughly "compact mass of fecal matter", and that crottin can be used for horse dung. But exactly what shapes are implied by which form of this morpheme, and which forms of which foods are covered by their figurative extensions, was previously outside my competence. So I jumped to a false conclusion, based on my experience with the modal shapes of horse manure and goat cheese.]

  4. J. Goard said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 10:27 am

    But someone without much knowledge of English can be pardoned for believing what the dictionaries say, or at least what they say first

    Really?? You know a word in your language primarily means "dung", but it used figuratively (jokingly) for a kind of food, and it's pardonable to just go with the dictionary's single definition, used for your language's extended meaning?

    So, would you say that if someone wanted to translate This beer is the shit! into another language, so he just looked up "shit" and predicated it of the beer, that he wouldn't be a total moron?

    [(myl) I was certainly not recommending that any restaurant owner should use a bilingual dictionary to create a do-it-yourself menu translation. If I were to try this, translating a menu from English into a language that I don't know — say Hungarian — I'm sure the results would be somewhere between puzzling and amusing to speakers of the target language. My point was exactly that bad results are predictable, no matter how smart you are, unless you check your draft with a competent native speaker (or get one to do the translation for you in the first place).]

  5. tudza said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 10:32 am

    The beer is rather the bees knees.

    I wonder if some margin of translation safety by even a non-English speaker would come from doing a back translation?

  6. Sili said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 10:36 am

    Seriously, how come the French do not have a word for toast?

    Well French bread is so good that you wouldn't wanna burn it to disguis the taste.

    Disclaimer: IANAC(ook)

  7. marie-lucie said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 10:37 am

    "toast"

    There is an old word, still current in Canada, for a toasted slice of bread: "une rôtie". Otherwise, toasted bread is known as "pain grillé", and a toaster is "un grille-pain". In currently fashionable speech (riddled with English words) "un toast" is a slice of Anglo-American style toast, not a toasted slice of French bread. ("French toast" is called "pain perdu", literally 'lost' or rather 'wasted' bread, which would indeed be wasted if not softened and cooked).

    There is far less need for toasting bread in France than in English-speaking countries where bread is soft and bland, and toasting adds both flavour and consistency. French bread is soft inside ("la mie") but the crust ("la croûte") is quite hard. This bread is also more flavourful than English-style bread. Additionally, the typical long loaf of French bread is not sliced into thin slices, but either broken by hand (there used to be a taboo on cutting bread) or cut into pieces two or three inches long. The longer pieces can then be cut in half lengthwise. But this bread does not need toasting.

  8. Murray Smith said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 10:38 am

    _Le Robert & Collins Super Senior_, which never fails, gives:

    crottin nm

    (a) [cheval, âne] droppings, dung (nonC), manure (nonC)
    (b) (=fromage) _small, round goat's milk cheese_

    The word figures prominently in the latest _policier_ of the incomparable Fred Vargas, _Un lieu incertain_.

  9. Słowosław said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 10:45 am

    I'm baffled as to why there is a "danger of death, keep out" sign on that NYT page.

  10. David L said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 10:52 am

    @marie-lucie: Thank you, that's very interesting.

    Bread in the UK and the US these days is a whole lot better than it used to be — or rather, you can find good bread, which wasn't so easy 30 years ago — but there remains a tendency to toast it anyway. And then in Fawlty-style regional hotels in the UK, you put the toast in one of those absurd metal racks, to make sure that by the time it reaches the table it's cold and inedible.

  11. Ray Girvan said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 11:48 am

    Talking of words for bread, I've often thought "ciabatta" and "chapati" an interesting example of false cognates.

  12. Ray Girvan said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 11:53 am

    David L: you put the toast in one of those absurd metal racks, to make sure that by the time it reaches the table it's cold and inedible.

    I was under the impression that the racks are intended to cool it; the English custom was/is to serve cold toast at breakfast and hot toast at tea.

  13. sh said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 11:53 am

    «Le Robert Micro» (1998):

    crotte [krɔt] n. f. 1. Excrément solide en petites boules (de certains animaux). Crottes de chèvre, de lapin. — CROTTE DE BIQUE : chose sans valeur. C'est la crotte de bique. — Excrément solide (animal ou humain). Des crottes de chien. 2. Fam. Crotte!, interjection de dépit ⇒ fam. flûte, zut ; vulg. merde. 3. Crotte de chocolat, bonbon de chocolat. crottin n. m. 1. Excrément du cheval. 2. Petit fromage de chèvre. Des crottins de Chavignol.

  14. Boris said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 1:05 pm

    I cannot comment about French, but I was unfamiliar with toast (the word or the concept) in Russia until an American friend introduced me to it. (Of course me not knowing a word does not mean that one does not exist, but my father would have corrected me long ago if it did, as he does every time I say "ouch". It's not that I don't know the Russian word "oy", it's that I don't understand how Russians can use the same word for ouch, oops, uh oh, eek, and many others I can't think of without confusion)

  15. David L said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 2:03 pm

    the English custom was/is to serve cold toast at breakfast and hot toast at tea.

    I'm sorry to say that I grew up in ignorance of this principle. We took our toast cold morning, noon, and night. I assumed this practice was part of the general English philosophy that eating is to be regarded as an ordeal that must be courageously borne, not something one might actually enjoy.

  16. Geraint Jennings said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 2:05 pm

    In Jersey, "rôtie" is toasted bread in heated cider. Very old fashioned, but supposed to be medicinal. The equivalent in Guernsey is "tôtaïe". Toast (without the alcohol) is respectively "pain rôti" and "pôin tôtaï". But since traditional bread types are so crusty anyway, one is less likely to want to toast them.

  17. David L said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 2:16 pm

    I'm beginning to suspect that, in fact, French has at least half a dozen different words for 'toast'….

  18. jan said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 2:52 pm

    That must be true! It would give the French the vocabulary that they need to perceive their refined culinary tradition. Or something like that…

  19. Bob Ladd said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 4:30 pm

    Marie-Lucie is correct that toasting bread is far less necessary if it is French bread than if it is the classic commercial white bread of the English speaking world, and I think the answer to David L's apparently rhetorical question is that, actually, yes, toast is an Anglo-Saxon invention. The English word toast has also been borrowed into German, and Toastbrot is what the Germans call commercial packaged bread deliberately made in the ghastly Anglo-Saxon style so that it can be toasted in the Anglo-Saxon style.

  20. marie-lucie said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 4:55 pm

    GJ: Thank you very much for adding Norman French. "tôtaïe" must be the exact counterpart of "rôtie", both being originally feminine past participles (the feminine probably referred to "une tranche de pain"). My Petit Robert has "toast" as a borrowing from English of course, but also says that the English word was itself borrowed from the Old French verb "toster" 'griller', which must have become "tôter" in Norman French, as it would have if it had survived in Standard French (does the verb still exist in NF?). In turn, "toster" derived from (a verb "tostare" formed on) Latin "tostus", the past participle of the verb "torrere", also 'griller'.

    The root "torr-" is also evidenced in the verb "torréfier" and the noun "torréfaction" which refer to the roasting of coffee. Toast and coffee, anyone?

  21. Ralph Hickok said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 5:13 pm

    So crottin de chèvre means goat dung of goat?

  22. marie-lucie said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 5:50 pm

    No, "crottin" means pellet dung, not specifically goat dung. "Crottin de chèvre" is literally "goat dung", and metaphorically "dung-pellet-like cheese made from goat's milk".

  23. Andreina said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 6:12 pm

    @David, French do have a word for "toast": it is 'pain grillé'

  24. Geraint Jennings said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 6:45 pm

    @marie-lucie: In Jèrriais we only have "rôti", but Dgèrnésiais has "tôtaïr" both for toasting (making toast) and toasting (drinking one's health). There are also compounds such as "fourchaette à tôtaïr" (toasting fork).

  25. Nathan Myers said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 8:20 pm

    Evidently the dictionary is just wrong, and should have listed "pellet" in place of "dung".

    On the subject of "road apples", we have this:

    Old guy walks into a bar in Mexico City, sits down. Drunk elbows him, says, "Hey, do you know Pancho Villa?".

    Old guy says, "Do I know Pancho Villa? Let me tell you a story.

    "One day I was walking in the desert. The road was straight as far as I could see behind me, as far as I could see ahead of me. In the distance I saw a tiny speck. A long time later, I could see it was a man on a horse. When he came along side, he stopped, and I stopped.

    He said, 'Do you know who I am?'

    "I said, 'No, señor, I do not know who you are.'

    "He said, 'I am Pancho Villa!' . Then he pulled out his gun and he shot my hat right off my head. That startled me, and maybe it startled his horse. His horse dropped some road apples. He saw me looking, and he became very angry. He pointed his gun at me, and he said, 'I am Pancho Villa, and you will eat those road apples.'

    "What could I do? He had the gun. I bent down, and I ate the road apples. But then a snake came out, and his horse reared up. He calmed his horse, but he dropped his gun. I was on the ground. I got his gun. I pointed it at him, and I said, 'You are Pancho Villa, and now you will eat the road apples'.

    "What could he do? I had the gun. He got off his horse, and he bent down, and he ate the road apples. I got on his horse, and I rode off down the road.

    "So you ask me, señor: do I know Pancho Villa?

    "I had lunch with Pancho Villa!"

  26. Nanani said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 9:35 pm

    Re: toast in French

    I'm French-Canadian and grew saying des toasts. We prepared les toasts in a grille-pain or a toaster (read it in joual, with emphasis on the -STER).

    Pain grillé strikes me as something people concerned with encroaching anglicisms would use. It's quite possible my schoolteachers might have forced the hypercorrection on us students, but it didn't stick if they did.

    Anyone saying rôties would probably be assumed to be a snotty faux-Parisian, assuming they weren't European, since we didn't ever use that word to refer to toast.

    Of course, I'm only 25, so generational factors might also be at work.

  27. marie-lucie said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 10:58 pm

    Nanani, bonjour,

    It was not until I came to Canada in the 60's that I realized what "des rôties" were, as I had encountered the word in older novels and had no idea what kind of food was meant.

    Perhaps as you say the word is now very old-fashioned in Canada. Have you asked people of your parents' or grandparents' generation. In France, I don't think it was in general use beyond the 19th century (but le Petit Robert mentions it as "régional", so it may still be used in some parts).

    As I said earlier, in France "les toasts" would have to be made with English-type bread, and "le pain grillé" would be more likely to apply to toasted French-type bread, which is less commonly toasted.

    GJ: In Jèrriais we only have "rôti", but Dgèrnésiais has "tôtaïr"

    The second one is obviously a verb which in French would be "tôter", so it has indeed survived in NF, at least in Guernesey. Is "rôti" a verb too? the loss of final r in the pronunciation of -ir verbs as well as -er verbs is a Western French feature, but I see that Dgèrnésiais seems to have done the opposite: it is amazing that there is so much difference in two islands so close to each other.

  28. Nicki said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 11:12 pm

    You can contribute a better translation for crottin de chèvre sur toast on Google translate.

    [(myl) I did.]

  29. Bobbie said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 11:18 pm

    Chevre and chocolate are a lot less appealing when referred to as turds!

  30. marie-lucie said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 11:28 pm

    Bobbie, "turd" is the wrong word, very offensive. "Crotte" is small and not offensive (some people use "ma crotte" is a term of endearment!).

    [(myl) I'm hoping that "ma crotte" as a term of endearment followed, rather than preceded, the use of crotte to mean "small piece of chocolate candy". And it's curious that the diminutive crottin is used for horse droppings, which are normally quite large. If France were a small island in the south seas, someone might be tempted to take the whole crotte-related lexicon for a Freudo-Whorfian whirl. ]

  31. Geraint Jennings said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 2:41 am

    @marie-lucie: yes, "rôti" is a verb as in "rôti du pain" – toast bread. "Du pain rôti" is toast. The final "r" of Dgèrnésiais infinitives is purely orthographic, as are those of Jèrriais, where we have them in verbs such as "aver" – have. Older texts in non-standardised spelling often don't include these final "r"s, but 19th century lexicographers attempted to follow French conventions, so we're stuck with them.

  32. Linda McPhee said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 2:57 am

    The other problem with rôti is that it already has another meaning: unleavened, griddle cooked bread, which is often served Surinamese style, with a kind of spicy stew on it.

  33. Joaquim said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 5:03 am

    In Catalan there are some sweets called "pets de monja", which Google of course translates as "Nun's farts." Unfortunately I don't have pictures to prove that this translation has been used in a restaurant.
    I do swear however to have seen "jews" on a menu in Barcelona, to mean "beans" ("judías" in Spanish). Incredible as it may seem, that day I was having lunch with a person from Israel.

  34. brdo said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 5:51 am

    A friend of mine saw a restaurant menu in Rome that translated "focaccia" as "dirty seal"

  35. Dictionary defender said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 6:41 am

    I'm afraid Mark Liberman was insincere. The entry for "crottin" in the Concise Oxford-Hachette French dictionary reads:

    1) (de cheval) dung 2) (fromage) (small round) goat's cheese

    If there was no second translation, the number 1 would not have appeared at the first. So the dictionary is correct after all – you just need to look at the entries carefully.

    [(myl) Incorrect indeed I was, but not insincere:

    It's apparently a quirk of Oxford Reference Online's interface that even if you search just a single work, it shows you a snippet from the result, in a format that (in this case anyhow) looks like a complete entry. In fact you can click through to the full entry, but I didn't realize that I hadn't seen it:

    ]

  36. Bob C said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 7:06 am

    I'm reminded of the U.S. Army mess hall staple, creamed chipped beef on toast, affectionately called "shit on a shingle" by GIs.

  37. Jim Demers said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 8:00 am

    The use in French of "crottin" seems perfectly analogous to the use in English (or at least American English) of "pellet" in phrases like "rabbit pellets". No English dictionary would use "turd" as the primary meaning of "pellet", but the French translation dictionaries seem to have latched onto this secondary meaning.

    Amusingly, we even have a bit of culinary confusion in the U.S.: "goat pellets" and "deer pellets" can refer to the animals' dung, but the terms are also used to refer to pelleted animal feed.

  38. Jay Lake said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 8:24 am

    My favorite bread word in English is the Southern bakery item, "pan frances", which is basically a big, soft, fat vaguely baguette-shaped loaf. Pain Francaise, anyone.

  39. Dictionary defender said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 8:54 am

    Apologies, Mark – the print dictionary is in fact correct, but you are right that there is a problem with the display on Oxford Reference Online. I'll raise it with them.

  40. marie-lucie said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 9:19 am

    JL, you mean "pain français". Most of these are too soft – not crusty enough.

    The Tim Horton chain of coffee shops used to make sandwiches with a small French-style loaf about 6" long, which was quite nice. Last time I had one I noticed that the bread was a very pale colour, and it tasted slightly undercooked – this may have been done on purpose in order for the crust to stay relatively sloft. Lately those loaves have been replaced by another type that they are touting as "soft". I guess even the slightly hardened crust (too soft for a French taste) was too hard for the general Canadian public.

    At one point my local supermarket was selling fresh-baked bread in paper bags. On one side was written "French bread"; on the other, "pane italiano". Actually it was neither, but something in between. Italian bread must be made from a different type of flour: it has a hard crust but of a different consistency from the French crust, and the inside is tasteless.

    Joaquim, "pets de monja": in French there are "pets-de-nonne", which means the same thing. They are probably the same, a type of light deep-fried pastry.

    In Québec there is something called by a similar name, except that it is not about nuns, but I forget the exact word. I have only seen the name in writing and don't know whether the pastry is the same or not.

  41. marie-lucie said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 9:34 am

    The other problem with rôti is that it already has another meaning

    Already? In Standard French there are three similar nouns: "un rôti" (a masculine word) is "a roast" (as in "pork roast" or "Sunday roast"); there is also the old-fashioned "une rôtie" (a feminine word) meaning a piece of toast, as mentioned above; these two words are pronounced the same and coexisted for a long time, the difference in gender making the meaning difference clear. The word for the Indian-type bread, of recent importation, is "roti" (no ô) which (at least in my speech) has a different vowel (I assume it is also used as a masculine word). For a French person, it is this roti which is new, not the other two words. A word for a type of exotic bread is unlikely to displace one for a large piece of meat cooked in a traditional manner.

  42. Colin John said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 10:12 am

    Joaquim – re: "pets de monja"

    'Pets de nonne' is the French – in this case meaning light sweet deep-fried pieces of batter small enough to be eaten in one mouthful. Think of inch-long churros. I guess they're much the same.
    On a slightly different tack it made me think of the name I heard applied to the small pieces of expanded polystyrene used for packaging – 'ghost poo'.

  43. matt mcknight said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 11:03 am

    My general strategy in these cases is to try a reverse translation and see what comes back.

  44. Steve said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 11:26 am

    @marie-lucy re "torréfier"

    Brewers (in the UK at least) sometimes add torrefied wheat or barley to the mash. It refers to grain that has been dried out by heat, but not as far as actually cooking it, which would make it roasted. I don't know if its used much outside of brewing.

  45. Dave said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 11:26 am

    I'm surprised this hasn't been mentioned, but "toast" is masculine in France and more commonly feminine in Canada.

    I say "more commonly" at minimum. Perhaps a native speaker of Canadian French can say whether "un toast" strikes them as typically European or if it is an acceptable alternative in Canada.

  46. marie-lucie said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 11:42 am

    matt mcknight: Your name rings a bell. Does mine?

  47. Dictionary defender said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 11:48 am

    Mark, having checked Oxford Reference Online, what you need to do is click on the word you have looked up (it's a link) and you will be taken to the full entry for that word (which shows the "fromage" sense).

  48. Dave said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 11:50 am

    Marie-Lucie, it was my impression that "rôtie" meaning "toast" was pronounced as if it were spelt "rotie", that is, as [ʀɔtsi], while "un rôti" would more likely be [ʀotsi]. Perhaps the distinction between that and Indian "roti" would be the *consonant* (since a "t" in a loanword might not undergo assibilation) and not the vowel.

  49. HeyTeach said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 1:23 pm

    Mentioned this on another posting, and here, also, just to be sure:

    http://engrishfunny.com/ has many examples of what become lost/mangled in translation. Careful not to get sucked in.

  50. marie-lucie said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 1:42 pm

    Dave, it is quite possible that in Québec those words are pronounced as you say, but that is not where I grew up and although I visit sometimes, I don't live there. Nanani would be the expert. In my own pronunciation, "rôti" and "rôtie" are the same, [ʀoti], and I would probably say [ʀɔti] for the Indian word "roti" (which I had not had occasion to hear from other French speakers).

  51. Chandra said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 1:48 pm

    The thing is, I bet nobody consulted a dictionary at all when writing that menu. It was probably put through Google Translate and printed up on faith that whatever came out was correct enough.

    Also, is it just me, or does the whole idea of naming food after feces strike anyone as a somehow highly unlikely linguistic phenomenon? It completely flies in the face of our biological disgust reflex. I wonder if there are any examples of similar figurative uses for poo words in other languages.

  52. Dave said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 2:01 pm

    Marie-Lucie,

    Thanks. I realized that you were French, but something you wrote earlier had led me to believe you were in Canada now.

  53. Nathan Myers said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 3:55 pm

    marie-lucie: I wonder if that "tasteless" pane italiano was really unsalted Tuscan bread. It takes people by surprise, if that can be said of bread. Apparently its origin involved, as with so many regional acquired tastes, taxes and not, as with so many others, the Church.

  54. marie-lucie said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 4:40 pm

    Dave, I do live in Canada, but not in the main French-speaking part.

  55. April K said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 4:56 pm

    Also worth a look
    http://www.engrish.com

  56. möngke said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 5:52 pm

    In Slovene, horse droppings are colloquially called "figs", leading to more possible amusing misunderstandings.

  57. Nanani said,

    May 17, 2010 @ 3:37 am

    Sorry for the late reply –

    In Canadian French, we also say un rôti (i.e. un rôti de boeuf) to mean slow-roasted meat prepared in a specific way.

    Now, generally, in Canadian French, accents-marks in writing indicate a pronunciation difference that is generally lost in Europe as far as I know, but of course there is a lot of regional variation there. I have noticed, for example, that Europeans will rhyme -é (final vowel in je suis allé) and -êt (final vowel in le repas est prêt), while I would never to that. The vowels are drastically different ti my ear.

    Back on topic, un rôti and roti (the indian bread) definitely do sound different. The first vowel is substantially different, but IANAL so I can't quite describe it. Perhaps in the latter (no accent mark), the vowel is reduced somewhat?

  58. Dave said,

    May 18, 2010 @ 9:57 am

    Nanani,

    What I was suggesting is that, despite the circumflex accent, the word "rôtie" (meaning "toast") is pronounced with the vowel of "cote", and not the vowel of "côte" as you would expect from the spelling.

    I was also wondering whether the masculine gender in "un toast" would be considered characteristic of European speakers.

  59. marie-lucie said,

    May 18, 2010 @ 12:31 pm

    Nanani,

    The pronunciations you describe as yours are quite similar to mine, but I am an older person, raised in Western France, which has a conservative pronunciation.

    The difference betwen the first vowels of "rôti(e)" and "roti" are both of length (the one in the first word is definitely longer) and height (degree of opening of the mouth).

    Dave,

    What age speakers, and what part of the French-speaking world, are you talking about?

  60. Dave said,

    May 18, 2010 @ 5:17 pm

    Marie-Lucie,

    I'm talking about Canada only.

    I hadn't thought of the possibility of an age difference in this regard. But I would guess that, in the Canadian context, the younger people are, the more likely they are to be influenced by the spelling. So it is entirely plausible that [o] could be appearing in "rôtie" for some speakers. Only I don't think I've heard it.

    From what Nanani wrote, it would seem he or she disagrees with me, and uses [o], as in "côte".

    I'm English Canadian. I have a good knowledge of French, but could well be wrong on something like this. The only thing I'm sure of is that [ʀɔtsi] is a common pronunciation. (Nobody in Canada merges [ɔ] and [o], so that's not an issue.)

  61. Nanani said,

    May 18, 2010 @ 9:22 pm

    Dave, Marie-Lucie:

    Thanks for the sound description help!
    Going back over it, I can pick out the length difference now.

    As I said, I don't use rôtie to mean toast, so I can't say anything about that vowel. For the meat, it's the côte vowel, not the cote vowel, in my speech.
    You may well be right about the speaker's age being the relevant factor. I'm nowhere near my older relatives right now and can't find out.

    Incidentally, have you ever seen this têtes à claques clip: http://www.tetesaclaques.tv/le_cauchemar_vid20 ?

    The woman wakes up and says "Des toasts! Des toasts!". This series is as French-Canadian as they come, and I think the creators are on the younger end of the scale. How does that compare?

  62. mollymooly said,

    May 19, 2010 @ 2:05 pm

    @J. Goard:

    So, would you say that if someone wanted to translate This beer is the shit! into another language, so he just looked up "shit" and predicated it of the beer, that he wouldn't be a total moron?

    You don't even need to switch languages to fall prey to such a lapse, as these book reviews attest.

  63. Linda McPhee said,

    May 30, 2010 @ 10:50 am

    We were having lunch in a restaurant in a small French city, a bit off the tourist trail, and the large group of monolingual Americans at the next table asked for translations of each item on the menu. The waiter did really well until 'salade confit de gesiers', which includes both a food item (giblets) and a cooking method (slow-cooked in seasoned duck fat) that don't translate well (a shame, because gesiers are delicious). He offered "candied duck stomach salad" and the woman nearest us turned a funny greeny shade and stopped him by saying "I'll just have the steak".

  64. Bruce Graham said,

    June 24, 2011 @ 3:13 pm

    From the excellent Trésor de la langue française informatisé
    http://atilf.atilf.fr/

    Translation is a fickle mistress….

    CROTTIN, subst. masc.
    A. Excréments de certains animaux (mouton, chèvre et, particulièrement, cheval, âne) formés d'un amas de parcelles arrondies, utilisables comme engrais. Crottin frais, fumant; ramasser du crottin. La chaussée où les moineaux s'abattaient en troupes pour picorer le crottin (A. FRANCE, Vie fleur, 1922, p. 321). Ça sent l'essence et le crottin de cheval (GIONO, Gd troupeau, 1931, p. 235).
    Rem. La docum. atteste qq. rares emplois du mot au plur. Des crottins de bouc (HUGO, N.-D. Paris, 1832, p. 253); répandre des crottins (CLAUDEL, Violaine, 1892, I, p. 507).
    P. méton. Crottin de cheval. Couleur du crottin de cheval. J'endossai donc l'habit crottin de cheval, la culotte noire (MICHELET, Mémor., 1822, p. 210).
    P. métaph. :

    L'érudition frétait des bibliothèques alexandrines pour le ravitaillement d'innombrables rongeurs à lunettes, dont l'office était de picorer des fétus dans l'énorme amas de crottin documentaire fienté par de plus grands animaux.
    BLOY, Le Désespéré, 1886, p. 134.
    B. [P. anal.]
    1. [de forme] Crottin de Chavignol. ,,Fromage fermier du Sancerrois, au lait de chèvre, qui se présente sous la forme de petits cylindres aplatis recouverts de légères moisissures bleues" (Ac. Gastr. 1962).
    2. [de valeur] TYPOGR. ,,Mauvaise impression" (VOYENNE 1967).
    C. Au fig., arg., vx (terme de mépris employé par le fantassin). Cavalier (cf. MERLIN, Lang. verte troupier, 1888, p. 39; BRUANT 1901).
    Rem. La docum. atteste l'adj. dérivé crottineux au sens de « boueux » (cf. crotte B). À la suite d'un méchant dérapage sur un terrain crottineux (ARNOUX, Paris, 1939, p. 195).
    Prononc. et Orth. : []. Ds Ac. 1740-1932. Avec 1 t ds CAMUS, Cas intéress., 1955, 1er temps, 1er tabl., p. 614. Étymol. et Hist. Ca 1346 crotin (ESPINAS, Doc. rel. à la drap. de Valenciennes, 245 ds BARB. Misc. 11, no 21). Dér. de crotte*; suff. -in*, v. THOMAS (A.) Essais, p. 375. Fréq. abs. littér. : 86. Bbg. COURTINE (R. J.). Les Fromages fr… Vie Lang. 1972, p. 630.

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