Believed ham

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PMW writes:

The recent menu posts on LL reminded me of a photo I took circa 2003 in a busy tourist spot on the Cote d’Azur, France. I’m not sure I’ve seen a sign in Europe with such a diversity of translation errors.

The menu describes a set of prix fixe alternatives, including for the first course

Starting from the bottom, we have jambon cru "raw ham", with the adjective cru "raw" translated as if it were the past participle of the verb croire "to believe".

Then we have the salade de chêvre chaud "warm goat cheese salad", with the adjective chaud "warm" translated as if it were the noun chaud "heat". (And chêvre translated as "goat" rather than "goat cheese".) Also, the translation of fumé "smoked" is misspelled as "smocked", and lardons "bacon cubes" is mysteriously mapped to "plugs".

At the top we have the soupe de poisson avec sa rouille, croutons, et gruyère, with the noun rouille translated literally as "rust", rather than contextually as "rouille", i.e. what the OED calls "A Provençal sauce resembling mayonnaise flavoured with red chillies, garlic, and other ingredients, typically served with fish soups".

And last but by no means least, the croutons are translated, simply and appropriately, as "croutons"; but somehow the word is also felt to be a first-person-plural imperative (of a rare or made-up verb croûter "to encrust"?), so an extra "let us" is stuck in there.

Here are the choices for the main course:

At the bottom, the simple phrase pièce de boeuf "piece of beef" is translated as the equally simple, but contextually inappropriate, "part of ox"; and the noun poivre is apparently suspected of being the infinitive of the verb poivrer "to add pepper to", and thus is translated as "to pepper".

For the rest of it, I'll note only that the translator apparently gave up on gambas pôellées [sic] "fried prawns", and just presented the French words while reversing the order of modifier and head. Perhaps this was because the spelling error in what should have been gambas poêlées interfered with dictionary look-up.  And août "August" was similarly passed through without change in the translation, although it was properly spelled.

PMW notes that "The simplicity of the mis-translation of ‘cru’ is so neat and so ridiculous that it has kept me laughing for almost a decade." He also expresses astonishment that

… this big sign had survived in such a prominent place populated by hordes of English-speaking tourists (and many English residents), so badly translated. I thought that maybe some collective desire not to spoil the joke for fellow English speakers had prevented anyone pointing it out. Or possibly that the restaurant owners knew full well that this would be a talking point and attract punters in. For the record, I had Salad of Goat Heat followed by the Part of Ox Sauce To Pepper, which was very good.

This reminds me of something that I've wondered about for a long time. When did French-language menus start using possessive pronouns, in constructions like et ses/son/sa "and its/their", to describe secondary or accompanying ingredients? When did English-language menus start copying this construction? And is it as awkward and odd in French as it is (restaurant tradition aside) in English?


  1. Victor Mair said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 6:51 am

    It is comforting to know that I have companions in the "Lost in Translation" department.

  2. Andy Averill said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 7:06 am

    Could lardons have been translated as plugs because they are sometimes inserted into slits in a roast, à la Julia Child?

    And chèvre in a salad is usually goat cheese rather than the actual goat. But you never know, one time I ordered "rabbit salad", thinking it was a selection of lettuces that a rabbit might eat, but no…

  3. Catharine Cellier-Smart said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 7:24 am

    I think the "translator" in question, even in 2003 was probably the internet – for me that's the only explanation.

    I recently returned to a local (Reunion, a French-speaking island) restaurant that I hadn't been to recently. This particular restaurant is one of the few that’s taken the trouble to translate its menu into English, however they insist on using internet translation and unfortunately that gives results like "Crotin [sic] de Chèvre Chaud de Chavignol sur Lit de Salade" translated as 'Warm Goat dung (Chavignol) on bed of salad'. (For those that don’t speak French it should be ‘Warm Goat’s Cheese’ in English!)
    Another example: 'Souris d'Agneau Rôtie aux Thym, sur Lit de Lentilles" translated as 'Roasted Lamb with mouse Thin, on a bed of lentils'. Here the "Souris [d'agneau]" (knuckle of lamb) has been translated literally as ‘mouse’. (I still have figured out how they got from "Thym" to 'Thin' though).
    Things have improved however, as a few years ago in the same restaurant "filet" was translated throughout as ‘net’ instead of ‘fillet’, and "cabot de fond" (a type of fish) was translated as ‘dog bottom’!

  4. Julien Quint said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 7:29 am

    "Croûter" is not a made-up verb, it is slang for "manger", to eat. I would guess it comes from another expression meaning to eat, "casser la croûte", literally "break the [bread] crust."

  5. Jessica said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 7:34 am

    There's nothing like a good mis-translation of a French menu, and this one is absolutely the best. The total disregard for both the difference between French and English word order, and the fact that French words can be adjectives AND verbs (and so a translator must choose which to use) is magnificent! (And bonus points for misspelling "with" so creatively!)

    I've seen the "et sa rouille" or "avec ses croutons" construction in France for 25+ years. It always strikes me as smug, but I'd love to know how it sounds to a native French speaker.

    [(myl) I'm sure that the construction is at least that old. But I wonder, were there hand-written menus at banquets in the ancien régime with this construction? Did it start in the 19th century? Or is it so natural in French (I doubt it!) that a seventeenth-century family cook, asked what's for déjeuner, might have answered something like "une soupe de poissons avec sa rouille", or "une salade et ses lardons"?]

  6. Mr Punch said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 7:46 am

    The first mistranslation offered by Catharine C-S is an odd case. "Chevre chaud" should indeed be "warm goat cheese," but "crotin" does indeed mean dung – though more rabbit than goat, I would have said. "Crotin" refers to a certain size and shape (think rabbit dung!) of cheese; in English we use the French word. I suggest that what we have here is actually a crash blossom – because fromage/cheese has been elided, "crotin de chevre" can be understood as "goat dung" rather than "a small roundish piece of goat cheese."

  7. Brian T said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 7:52 am

    "Believed ham" is still more appetizing than "raw ham." In "jambon cru," the "cru" doesn't connote "raw" so much as "uncooked," which is to say "cured." And "cured ham" isn't a common phrase for English speakers (in the United States, at least), who are more likely to recognize "prosciutto." With such pride in their language, the French might be mystified or scandalized that the quickest way to make this point in English is to use a non-English word.

    (Tangentially, I'd be interested to know more about how various languages do or don't mirror the audacious French trait of modifying proper names to make them Frenchier: Bernini becomes Le Bernin, Caravaggio becomes Le Caravage, Michelangelo becomes Michel-Ange … I'm sure the French would be outraged if Americans rewrote names as Francis Holland, John Paul Sarter, or Jack Tatty.)

    [(myl) But we used to call Cicero "Tully", and we still call Roma "Rome" and Napoli "Naples"…]

  8. James said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 7:57 am

    Andy Averill, yes! — in a recipe, lardons are usually used in that way; so 'plugs' is accurate, though unidiomatic, as to their function. (They are used to lard the meat.)

    [(myl) The accuracy is surely diminished when the lardons are plugged into (i.e. added to) to a "warm goat cheese salad"…]

    I have to admit that I thought 'let us' was lettuce.

  9. James said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 7:59 am

    Brian T, why not "country ham", which always denotes cured ham?

    [(myl) But cured ham, called "country" or not, is often also cooked. In fact, Wikipedia says that it's always cooked.]

  10. Alina Şuta said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 8:22 am

    Speaking of funny translations of menus, here's one from Romania that should be in the top 10 (even though there's some tough competition coming from Asia): .
    It starts really well with "Post Production" ("preparate de post" where "preparate" = dishes, "de" = of (preposition) and "post"= fasting, i.e. meat and dairy-free dishes) and goes on gloriously with "Live as the Grandparents" ("Ficatei a la bunica" where "ficatei" = chicken liver, "bunica" = grandma) and ends in a climax with "Brine crap with polenta and gardening" (Romanian "crap" = "carp"). Enjoy!

  11. Coby Lubliner said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 8:53 am

    My favorite menu translation is still, after all these years, one I found in Spain in pre-Internet days, based on word-by-word dictionary look-up: ternera a la plancha ('grilled beef') → calf to the board.

  12. Brett said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 9:01 am

    @Brian T: I am actually sad to see a decline in the use of traditional English (although not necessarily Anglicized) names for things and especially places: "Belarus" instead of "Byelorussia," "the Netherlands" instead of "Holland,"
    "Moldova" instead of "Moldavia." Many of these cases have oddities associated with them, of course. The state the the Netherlands has only really been half of the Low Countries since 1830, whereas Holland is only one of those said Countries.
    And it's not clear that the modern state of Moldova has any geographical overlap with the historical region of Moldavia.

    For people's names, I think it's different, and it seems to have been considered bad form to refer to people by Anglicized names for quite a bit longer. For dead people, this is less of a rule, presumably both because there are long-standing exceptions and because the individuals in question are not around to be offended.

  13. S. Norman said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 9:14 am

    Could the 'let us' be 'lettuce'?

  14. James said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 9:16 am

    Well, myl, a plug is still a plug when it is not plugged (or plugged into something for which they weren't intended…); and I had thought that calling a ham a 'country ham' would be at best misleading if it were sold cooked. Maybe that's wrong — food terms often pick out 'family resemblance' kinds rather than having a precise definition.
    (For what it's worth, Wikipedia says

    Country hams are not fully cooked, but preserved by the cure.

  15. erik i said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 9:26 am

    I think next time my family sits down to dinner, I will proclaim "Let us crouton!", as a way of saying "dig in!". Especially if there is salad.

  16. julie said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 9:39 am

    Here in Montreal there's a cheese shop that takes advantage of the double meaning of raw/believed – they call themselves "Qui l'ait cru!"

  17. FM said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 9:45 am

    From the dictionary Le Petit Robert :

    lardon n.m. […] 2. techn. Petit morceau de métal servant à boucher une fissure

    i.e. "a small piece of metal used to fill in a crack", in other terms, a plug!

    As for why the translator chose to turn to the second entry rather than the first one in the dictionary…

  18. Robert Coren said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 9:45 am

    I remember a French cafe menu with hilarious English translations that I encountered in about 2005 — I could probably find an online transcription of its most striking elements if I really worked at it, but I'm not going to — that included repeated instances of "ghoast cheese" (well, maybe it was "goast", but I don't think so), at least one "house maid" item, and something that implied that the chef had stuffed his own neck and served it.

    I too have wondered about the use of possessives in French menus; unlike Mark, I can't recall having seen it on an English-language menu.

  19. Daniel said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 10:06 am

    I remember a pizzeria in Rome that had on the menu "porky" from porcini and even better "hypocrite" from tartufo – an end run through Molière.

  20. Jerry Friedman said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 10:14 am

    @Brian T: Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Alexander, Horace, Terence… We do it a lot. I don't know whether the French do it more. They might with Italian names; the only ones I can think of that we anglicize are Petrarch, Christopher Columbus, and Raphael. And Titian. Both we and they do it with royal names, though we seem to have stopped between Ferdinand and Juan Carlos.

  21. Joe1959 said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 10:34 am

    @Brian T et al

    As a Brit I would understand the distinction between "cured ham" that was prepared by curing and air-drying (Jambon Cru / Jamon), which may subsequently be used as an ingredient in a recipe and cooked, and "ham / cooked ham / York ham" that was prepared by curing and cooking (Jambon de York / Jamon York), but have frequently been mystified by the designation "country ham" on American menus.

    I love Language Log – I always learn something!

  22. ajay said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 10:56 am

    Both we and they do it with royal names, though we seem to have stopped between Ferdinand and Juan Carlos.

    But we still do it with papal names – John Paul II, Benedict XVI and so on.

  23. Ted said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 11:19 am

    "Crotte" is dung. I've always thought the best translation for "crottin" (two Ts) is "turd."

  24. Freddy Hill said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 11:46 am

    But we still do it with papal names – John Paul II, Benedict XVI and so on.

    The only alternative would be to use Latin: Joannes Paolus, Benedictus, etc.

  25. Joe1959 said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 11:51 am

    @Catharine Cellier-Smart, Mr Punch et al

    I don't know if the same would apply to other speakers of English, but it occurred to me as I read the comments that the average Brit (at least the average Brit who could afford to vacation in Reunion / the Cote d'Azur) would be amused by the bad translation, but would know very well that "Crotin de Chevre Chaud de Chavignol sur Lit de Salade" wasn't "Salad of Goat Heat" or "Warm Goat dung".

    That is not to say that we are all good students of language, but more likely an indication of the amount of French (and Spanish, and Italian) food words that we assimilate simply by walking around the average supermarket.

    As pointed out, we see "crotin" in the UK used to refer to small goat cheeses, so even if you don't know the literal translation you might still know it refers to a small goat cheese (and if you do know the literal translation, it's likely your French is good enough that you will be familiar with the figurative uses of the word too).

  26. boris said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 11:56 am

    Belarus and Moldova officially changed their names from Byelorussia and Moldavia after the former Soviet Union broke up. This is as true in Russian as in English (and though they may have always been called that in their native languages, Russian was the official language of the whole country, so it was perfectly normal to use the Russian names while the Soviet Union existed).

  27. Karl Hideyo said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 12:18 pm

    In Turkey where I currently live, we have a constant source of lovely, colorful, and hilarious translations. One of my favorites are fantastic mistranslations of "döner". Anyone who has traveled to Turkey knows that döner is the delicious, juicy giant chunk of meat (usually beef) revolving on a stick. "Döner" also means "it turns" or "it returns" in Turkish and is a great source of Google mistranslations on menus… Here are some döner dishes, their real meanings, and some common mistranslations.

    Döner – Döner – Returns
    İskender döner – Alexander döner – Alexander returns
    Yoğurtlu döner – Döner with yoghurt – Returns with yoghurt
    Pilav üstü döner – Döner with pilaf – Returns on top of rice

    Then there's always the fact that "döner", when spoken, sounds like "done 'er"… But I'll let your imaginations run with that one.

  28. Bill Taylor said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 12:26 pm

    For what it's worth, here's what Google Translate makes of that menu:

    fish soup with rouille, croutons and cheese
    warm goat salad and smoked bacon
    ham and melon half
    fried prawns, flambéed with pastis (except August)
    bouillabaisse "house"
    piece of beef with pepper sauce or bearnaise

    If the original errors were due to inadequate machine translation, it's a sign of how far the field has progressed in a decade or so. Still trips over that darned synecdochic goat, though.

  29. Jim said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 12:45 pm

    "Andy Averill, yes! — in a recipe, lardons are usually used in that way; so 'plugs' is accurate, though unidiomatic, as to their function. (They are used to lard the meat.)"

    Actually the accurate term is "lardoon". That's the culinary term. But you can see the problem with putting that on a menu.

    "As pointed out, we see "crotin" in the UK used to refer to small goat cheeses,…"

    And if they have developed any kind of mold rind, they really do look like turds. Why not start using that term, maybe first in edgy little bistros with punk affinities?

    "But we still do it with papal names – John Paul II, Benedict XVI and so on.
    The only alternative would be to use Latin: Joannes Paolus, Benedictus, etc."

    Neither one is any better than just plain old "Gianpaolo" or "Benedetto". And it would remind everyone that the Bishop of Rome is in fact the Bishop of Rome.

  30. James said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 1:06 pm

    Jim, that's interesting — is that a particularly UK word? I'm not sure I have ever seen 'lardoon' — although it's possible that I've seen it and just misread it as 'lardon'.

    The Kitchen Dictionary has 'lardon' but not 'lardoon':

  31. Jocelyn Small said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 1:18 pm

    Years ago the faculty dining room at Florida State University announced the evening's special as "cocoa van".

  32. Ellen K. said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 1:24 pm

    It seems to me Pope names isn't a good example because there isn't really one version of the name. The various versions in different languages are all his name. Benedict, Benedikt, Benedictus, Benedetto, etc. For languages that have a version of the name, that language's version is used. It's not particular to English. If one version were to be thought of as more official than the others, though, it would be Latin, not Italian.

  33. Catharine Cellier-Smart said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 2:06 pm

    When I left the UK a number of years ago I don't think French goat's cheese was being sold under the name of "crottin" (hopefully "crottin" and not "crotin"!), but I'm perfectly willing to believe it is today, and that your average Brit now knows what it is. However what about the other visitors for whom English is a second language? Not sure they run much chance of understanding! Anyway, it made me burst out loud laughing in a somewhat quiet restaurant the other evening …

  34. Theodore said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 2:06 pm

    I wonder why "lardons" wasn't turned into the first-person plural imperative of

  35. Andy Averill said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 4:48 pm

    Lettuce as a garnish for fish soup? That's a little too nouvelle for me…

  36. Jim said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 5:33 pm

    James, no, it's not specifically UK. I saw it in Joy of Cooking….God, I can't even remember now which edition it was.

    "The Kitchen Dictionary has 'lardon' but not 'lardoon':"

    Okay, 'lardon' is so not going to make it onto a restaurant menu. Can you see "Y'all people, get your lard on…"

    "If one version were to be thought of as more official than the others, though, it would be Latin, not Italian."

    Well, Italian is modern Latin, but more to the point, it is the language of the city of Rome, where he is bishop. Using the "Latin" form is like referring to Hu Jintao in some Han dynasty pronunciation.

    "Years ago the faculty dining room at Florida State University announced the evening's special as "cocoa van".

    That reminds me of some horrible meal described in Vanity Fair which was mutton and turnips, boiled in salt water and stingy on the salt probably, which the son insisted be called "mouton aux navets" while he was there and the butler insited on pronouncing as "muttononavvy" or something like that.

    Good name for a coffee cart though, with a rooster for a logo.

  37. Rubrick said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 5:39 pm

    We, the believers of ham, are gathered here in this house of worship, our heads bowed and our plugs smocked. Let us crouton.

  38. The Ridger said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 6:57 pm

    We still do with the tsars' names to – Nicholas, not Nikolai; Peter, not Piotr; Paul, not Pavel; Catharine, not Yekaterina … all but Ivan, who almost never becomes John (is that because "John" is unlucky in England, and therefore English?)

  39. Jason F. Siegel said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 8:16 pm

    A bit of Google-fu with the terms ' "smoked plugs" bacon' reveals that smoked plugs is actually an infrequent culinary jargon term for lardons fumés.

  40. David Morris said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 10:05 pm

    Holland is a province of the Netherlands – or more accurately North and South Holland are two provinces of the Netherlands. Calling the Netherlands or the Kingdom of the Netherlands 'Holland' is roughly equivalent to calling Great Britain or the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 'England'. The endonyms Nederland/ Koninkrijk der Nederlanden don't have a direct article. Various exonymns eg '(the) Netherlands' vary between having and not having a direct article. I can't quite bring myself to use 'Netherlands' by itself.

    The importance of Holland can be seen by the fact that Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam are all located there.

  41. Julien said,

    August 23, 2012 @ 11:10 pm

    As a native speaker of French: The "dish with its possessions" style of menu writing has been around on upper-class restaurant menus as long as I can remember (which means back to the early 1980s). Yes, it reads very stilted to natives as well, and slightly ridiculous too.

    No idea who started it though.

  42. John Walden said,

    August 24, 2012 @ 2:54 am

    Most travellers have a collection of unintentionally funny menu items. My favourite from Greece was "Lamb in a Lesbian manner".

    But usually it is possible to work out what's going on: a hundred yards away in the small Spanish town where I live there is a restaurant which offered "Homedame salad" ; "Mixed up prawns", and "Corns in sauce". The second two result from "Revuelto de gambas" and "Callos en salsa", neither of which took long to figure out. You have to feel sorry for anyone who got a bowl of tripe instead of the corn they were expecting.

    What stumped me for a good while was "Wine or beer with thorn". Spanish-speaking readers might care to see if they can get it.

    Present-day Spanish almost always changes the names of British royals, even the minor ones. So El Mundo has:

    "El Palacio de St. James confirmó esta semana que el hombre que aparece en las fotos es el príncipe Enrique, hijo menor de Carlos de Inglaterra"

    It seems rather arbitrary to leave St. James in English.

    Are The Low Countries the same as The Netherlands, or are there parts of Belgium and flat bits of Germany included? Perhaps the problem is that Modern English predates the time when "Who speaks What Where?" was settled, if indeed it ever was. Where did the inhabitants of the Spanish possessions in present-day Holland think they lived and what language did they think they spoke? Hence the Dutch/Deutsch confusion and so on?

  43. John F said,

    August 24, 2012 @ 4:28 am

    Don't forget that typographical errors in English native speakers can be fun, too. Our canteen at work once advertised "Mice & Onion Pie", though the error was soon spotted and a new email sent out, but I kept the evidence for posterity.

    At one point I thought the spelling mistakes were done deliberately to entertain the workers.

  44. mollymooly said,

    August 24, 2012 @ 6:03 am

    Is the "[main] avec son/sa/ses [garnish]" an extrapolation from "dans son jus"? The English near-equivalent "stewed in its own juice" is nowadays only ever used metaphorically. And "dans son jus" has its own metaphorical senses.

    [(myl) Yes! This must be right — the 1694 Dictionnaire de l'Académie françoise has "Bœuf à la mode , C'est du bœuf assaisonné & cuit dans son jus." So now the question is, how and when was this generalized in French to non-inalienable non-possession, yielding things like

    Et on garde un peu de place pour les fraises gariguette aux olives noires confites, avec leur sorbet à la fleur de « thym-citron », leur crème d’olives en coque de sucre soufflé …

    Not all popes' names have English equivalents. Sixtus and Honorius probably count as English names identical to the Latin equivalent. But Pius might have made "Pious"; cf. Innocent.

  45. Hugo said,

    August 24, 2012 @ 10:37 am

    As a French speaker living in Québec, I can't recall hearing/seeing "food with possessives" in contexts other than to mock or mimic upper-class French cuisine, from France. However I wouldn't be surprised to see it in a higher-class restaurant here in Montréal. "Boeuf dans son jus" is fine to me since it's actually "juice" produced by the cooked beef, but some of the examples above sound (for me) more ridiculous than anything.

  46. Brett said,

    August 24, 2012 @ 12:28 pm

    @David Morris and John Walden: "Netherlands" and "Low Countries" are directly cognate names, and when the modern Kingdom of the Netherlands was founded after the Napoleonic Wars, it included both the northern (Dutch) and southern (Belgian) parts of the Low Countries. However, that union lasted only until the Revolution of 1830. The two states had had separate histories for too long; Belgium remained a Habsburg possession long after the Dutch won their independence during the wars of religion.

    The point of my aside was that the old name used in English, "Holland," was inaccurate, since it did not cover all of the Dutch Netherlands, while "the Netherlands" is inaccurate in the opposite way, since the country only occupies the northern "half" of the historical "Netherlands"/"Low Countries."

    In regard to the United Kingdom, while people frequently point out that "England" is not a proper way to refer to the whole state, "Great Britain" is considered proper (by, I recall from childhood, such sources as the National Geography Bee). However, "Great Britain" (or just "Britain") really only differs from "England" in the degree of its inaccuracy; it excludes Northern Ireland, obviously. There is really no consistency in how these names are judged as proper or no.

  47. Florence Artur said,

    August 24, 2012 @ 3:06 pm

    I'd like to know why there is no pastis with the prawns in August. Or is that no prawns in August?

  48. Rubrick said,

    August 24, 2012 @ 3:13 pm

    Every year or so I go to Wikipedia to re-acquaint myself with the England/Britain/Great Britain/United Kingdom/British Isles/British Commonwealth confusedness.

    The important thing, though, is that in all of them you can get excellent Fish with its Chips and Bangers with its Mash.

  49. Terry Collmann said,

    August 24, 2012 @ 9:04 pm

    Rubrick – you mean "poissons avec ses puces et petards avec ses pâtée", surely.

    [(myl) As in "Onglet de black Angus avec ses frites":

    Or "jambon avec sa purée de pommes de terre", etc.]

  50. Lisa said,

    August 24, 2012 @ 10:10 pm

    Note, however, that they got "its" right.

  51. Paul said,

    August 25, 2012 @ 5:35 pm

    A common feature on Syrian restaurant menus, in happier times, was the distinction between "Natural Juice" and "Unnatural Juice".

  52. marie-lucie said,

    August 25, 2012 @ 8:24 pm

    "Crotin de Chevre Chaud de Chavignol sur Lit de Salade"

    This description sounds odd to me in French. There are various types of French cheeses made with goat's milk. only some of which are small with a roundish shape and are called "crottin". One of them is le crottin de Chavignol, a particular type made in and around the village of Chavignol. The menu should not have to list "crotin de chèvre de Chavignol" since anyone familiar with thi cheese knows that it is un fromage de chèvre. It is now fashionable to eat some cheeses heated, but "chaud" here is in the wrong place, adding one more modifier between the head noun "crottin" and its modifying prepositional phrase "de Chavignol": the menu phrase seems to mean literally "warm goat dung from Chavignol".

    I think that the odd word order of this phrase results from the influence of English, which piles up modifiers within the noun phrase. Traditional French style uses relatively short noun phrases and adds modifiers as adjuncts, after the main phrase, as in the possible description "crottin de Chavignol, servi chaud sur un lit de salade" (plain "salade" in French meaning 'lettuce').

    La crotte vs le crottin

    Une crotte is a small, shaped piece of dung, a unit in the fecal materials of goats, rabbits, etc. Le crottin is a non-countable for a collection of largish crottes (as produced by a horse, for instance). I suspect that the name of the Chavignol cheese is not based on that Standard French meaning but is a dialectal derivative of crotte.

  53. marie-lucie said,

    August 25, 2012 @ 8:35 pm

    le lardon

    Le lard is the outside layer of fat enveloping the body of a pig or similar well-rounded animal. It can be used by itself or with some flesh attached to make bacon. A lardon is a small piece (not slice) of bacon, whether it is "plugged" into holes as in a ham, or used for some other purpose (to add flavour to a stew, for instance, or fried to a crisp and added to a salad).

    Un lardon is also a slang term for (someone's) baby or small child. It is mostly used in the plural, like "kids", especially in talking about a large family with many children close in age, overwhelming the parents.

  54. Mary Apodaca said,

    August 26, 2012 @ 6:50 am

    It doesn't seem to be correct in the examples here, but when I lived in France in the 1960s we saw the third person singular possessive all the time on menus of little neighborhood restaurants.

    We were told it referred to the house, that is, the restaurant. "Ses frites" would be fries prepared the way this restaurant does it.

    I've never seen the plural leur used in this way.

    [(myl) The 1960s date is helpful. But the explanation that you were given seems forced — the restaurant would be referring to itself in the third person. Though I suppose it could be "[le chef vous propose sa] soupe aux poisson avec sa rouille", i.e. his fish soup with his rouille.

    But the third-person plural, which is common in such constructions, doesn't permit this interpretation: a quick web search turns up "Les brochettes de boeuf et leur purée de patates douces", "Filets de truite et leur mayonnaise au fenouil", etc., etc. See here for more discussion.]

  55. Jay Livingston said,

    August 26, 2012 @ 11:58 am

    A friend (whose son once had a job translating the menu for a Paris resto) writes that his favorite is still "Filet de maquereau" – "Grilled pimp fillet."

  56. Catharine Cellier-Smart said,

    August 27, 2012 @ 8:35 am

    Remember this is Reunion island, an overseas department and not mainland France. Although there will be a certain number of restaurant clients who will know straightaway what 'Chavignol' is, visitors from elsewhere for whom French is a second language, or just certain locals won't necessarily know this (in the same way that for example 'Rougail Saucisse' or 'Carri Bichique' are well-known in Reunion but not necessarily known in mainland France.)

  57. Rob said,

    August 27, 2012 @ 9:26 am

    :S. Norman said,
    :August 23, 2012 @ 9:14 am
    :Could the 'let us' be 'lettuce'?

    No, it's from a translation of "croutons" as the imperative form, as in "allons" = "let us go!"

  58. Alon Lischinsky said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 5:03 am

    When did French-language menus start using possessive pronouns, in constructions like et ses/son/sa "and its/their", to describe secondary or accompanying ingredients? When did English-language menus start copying this construction?

    My French-corpus-fu isn't strong enough to answer this exactly, but I've taken a look at the Spanish data with some interesting results.

    The construction you mention is documented in Spanish at least since the late 19th century (“Zorzales albardados, en su jugo”, 1891), and it was quickly extended: CORDE has instances of “calamares en su tinta” (squids in ink sauce) from 1895, for example.

    However, there are much earlier instances of recipes labeled “en su salsa”, such as “pollos“ and “pabos (sic) en su salsa” in a 1611 cookbook. The data in CORDE are somewhat sparse, but it would be odd for this construction to be derived from “dans son jus”, given the huge chronological gap.

    Incidentally, this construction also occurs in definitely low-brow recipes and descriptions of traditional fare, especially in the Americas (e.g., “ceviche con su choclito”, although this may have a different origin, and is certainly irrelevant to the development of the construction in English.

  59. Ted said,

    August 29, 2012 @ 9:49 pm

    marie-lucie: so it seems I have it backwards, une crotte is a turd, and un crottin (which I had taken as a sort of diminutive denoting a count noun) is actually a pile of turds.

    Cette langue m'emmerde toujours.

  60. Food Links, 05.09.2012 | Tangerine and Cinnamon said,

    September 5, 2012 @ 12:21 am

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  61. Joe said,

    November 8, 2012 @ 12:28 pm

    @Catharine Cellier-Smart

    'When I left the UK a number of years ago I don't think French goat's cheese was being sold under the name of "crottin"'

    The label on the shelf in Tesco / Sainsburys / Waitrose probably still says "Chavignol Goat Cheese" but the packaging will say "Crotin de Chavignol" (in more specialist shops it may well just say “Crotin de Chavignol”). And – to generalise wildly (!) – if you can afford to holiday in Reunion, you've probably seen "crottin" on menus / in shops before, and (like me) have just enough French to work out that "Crotin de Chevre Chaud de Chavignol sur Lit de Salade" is some sort of goat cheese salad, but insufficient French to realise that (per marie-lucie) the word order is odd and that only certain types of small goat cheese are properly called "crottin".

    'However what about the other visitors for whom English is a second language?'

    Good point!

  62. Compilation of poor translations | The Jensen Localization Blog said,

    August 27, 2013 @ 2:34 am

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