Author Topic: English vs French. Languages words colloquial expressions and such like  (Read 2499 times)

ALAIN DELASSUS

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While railway /railroad is my long life passion, it's not the only one anymore because for over 15 years I've been practicing American (?) English everyday and since then this has become my second passion. Joining the WW&F has been a boon for it has made it possible for me to merge my passions. I start up this topic in order to discuss these two languages with you if you're willing to of course. In France, students at large learn actively English for 7 years in highschool but when they leave most of them doesn't go on practicing it unless English is essential for them to follow some university education, which was not the case for me at law school so I've almost forgotten English for 40 years. I know that some people still speack French in Maine and maybe some of you but I wonder if it is still  taught in highschools nowadays. In this topic I wish we could talk about words and colloquial expressions. For example on this forum you mostly use  the word railway and not the American word railroad I wish I knew the reason for and if there is a difference of meaning between them. Something else, in French the word pacesetter when it is related to an economic activity like sightseeing fo example is translated into "locomotive",which way be a bit funny when one speaks about tourist railways ,mind you we often say leader. As regards running a pacesetter or in British English pacemaker is "un lièvre" in French, hare in English, but now we mostly use the word pacer. To finish with, is a bell cow a byword for leader ?

John McNamara

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I have great admiration for your ability to make jokes and puns in English!

Keith Taylor

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Alain, here in the U.S. most colleges and universities require applicants to have taken at least two years of a foreign language in high school. At the high school I attended in New Jersey they offered French, Italian, German and Spanish.

Keith

ALAIN DELASSUS

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Thank you so much John. It's a real treat for me when I can make some.

Philip Marshall

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To finish with, is a bell cow a byword for leader ?

A more common expression in English is bellwether, which is an old-fashioned term for a ram (male sheep) that's been castrated and made to wear a bell, but it usually refers to leading or indicative trends in society or politics.

ALAIN DELASSUS

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 Keith in France it's  compulsory to study two foreign languages at highschool. After two years you have to pick up a second language. The first language is mostly English or Spanish and for the second one you have a quite  a choice as long as it is taught  in the highschool you attend of course. In the 60's English was the first language and German the second, Spanish was a rarety except in southern France. Now Spanish has displaced German that has become a rarety except maybe in eastern France. German was my second language.

James Patten

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I learned French in high school.  Unfortunately, the French taught is Parisian French, which is totally not helpful when visiting Quebec or Northern Maine (lots of Quebecois french speakers in northern Maine).  Quebecois French is its own version.

ALAIN DELASSUS

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James, Quebecois French is what we call in French " un patois ". In Northern French where I was born they still speak a patois with a broad accent , it sounds like French but  a parisian or someone living in southern France can't  understand it at all. Ten years back a blockbuster movie" Bienvenue chez les Ch'ti" tells the story of a post office manager from southern France that takes his new assignment in a small city in northern France. This patois is called Ch'ti. I can still speak it a little bit. By the way how many years did you learn English at highschool ?

Benjamin Richards

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For example on this forum you mostly use  the word railway and not the American word railroad I wish I knew the reason for and if there is a difference of meaning between them.

It was often the case that as rail transport companies went bankrupt, re-incorporated, etc, they used names ever so slightly different. For example, the WW&F was first known officially as the Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railroad Company, from 1901 until 1907. It was reorganized in 1907 to the Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railway Company.

Even more subtle are the iterations of the WW&F's predecessor, the W&Q. From 1876 to 1900 it was known as the Wiscasset & Quebec Railroad Company. In 1900 the word "company" was dropped from the name, leaving just Wiscasset & Quebec Railroad. This entity was not properly dissolved in 1901 with the advent of the WW&F, and this is the same corporate entity that Harry Percival revived in the 1980's.

As to WHY all these variations on a name, I suspect there was a desire to maintain the corporate brand, but perhaps there were legal reasons why the name had to change in the small ways as it did. Someone better versed in corporate law could comment further.
« Last Edit: June 23, 2021, 02:19:26 PM by Benjamin Richards »

ALAIN DELASSUS

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Benjamin thank you so much for your clarification. I'd noted the fact you've brought up as regards WW&F. A legal reason and finally it was road that was choosen by Washington maybe to stand out from the Queen English like the  spelling of a few words.

James Patten

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I took French for 4 years, can't say that I was great at it.

Philip Marshall

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...finally it was road that was choosen by Washington maybe to stand out from the Queen English like the  spelling of a few words.

American English vocabulary and usage has evolved organically rather than by government edict (unlike French), and in some cases we preserve older terms for things that the British no longer use. "Railroad" (sometimes "rail road", two words, in some early company charters) is such a case, and was used as early as the 18th century in England to refer to some early tramways. In time the British settled on "railway" while their American cousins continued to use the older "railroad", and it gradually came to be seen as distinctly American.

Wayne Laepple

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I knew a French woman, a teacher of English, who visited Maine some years ago. She was somewhat shocked when she discovered that she could hardly communicate with the Quebecois people she met. She determined they used many archaic idioms and words and phrases from the 17th and 18th centuries that are no longer used in modern-day French.

I would also comment, Alain, that railroading has its own vocabulary, and even its own regional words and phrases. For example, in New England, a device to hold a   rail vehicle in place is called a "trig," while in the mid-Atlantic the same thing is called a "chock." Some railroaders refer to it as a "block," and I've heard some railroaders also call it a "sprag."

Keith Taylor

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I would also comment, Alain, that railroading has its own vocabulary, and even its own regional words and phrases. For example, in New England, a device to hold a   rail vehicle in place is called a "trig," while in the mid-Atlantic the same thing is called a "chock." Some railroaders refer to it as a "block," and I've heard some railroaders also call it a "sprag."
The terms trig and sprag go back to the terms used when securing a horse drawn wagon’s wheels.




Philip Marshall

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For what it's worth, the Oxford English Dictionary traces "trig" (meaning to wedge in place or make secure) at least as far back as the 16th century and speculates that it may ultimately be derived from Old Norse. "Sprag" is more recent, dating only from the 19th century, and appears to have originally referred to a prop timber in a mine.

(Didn't we already have a discussion about the etymology of "trig" a few years ago? I have a feeling of déjà vu here...)