Language Comparisons I

I would like to take a closer look at some expressions and words that I feel like are strikingly different in English and in French.

Life expectancy vs espérance de vie

So when we speak of a given population’s average life span, English uses the noun expectancy, and French uses the noun espérance, hope. That is to say, Anglophones expect to live to a certain age, while Francophones hope to live to a certain age. Expectations imply confidence, a given right. We demand to at least live that long. Hopes imply luck, a privilege. We would be ever so lucky to live that long. I’m wondering how high of an effect this linguistic difference has on actual perceptions of death. Are French speakers more likely to have a certain carpe diem approach to life, while English speakers would have a more pragmatic, future-oriented way of living, taking for granted their life expectancy? There is a huge difference between hoping for something to happen and expecting something to happen. I don’t wanna make unprovable assumptions, but this difference is fascinating and it must have at least a minor, unconscious effect on our way of thinking.

Domestic violence vs violence conjugale

I am interested in the idea of domesticity here. I find this concept quite odd to use in the context of relationship. This term is used so often in so many contexts. We domesticate pets. They belong to us, we tame them. We also use it in political contexts, where domestic means national, as opposed to international or beyond regional borders. It is the geopolitical entity under the rule of one major head of state (say, a queen, a president, a prime minister). Domestic violence is a civil war. It is among two people who are in a conflict, wanting to own and control the territory. They want to tame the other, to assert rule over the home. Conjugal on the other hand is more difficult to grasp. It is only an adjective implying 2 or more people, together (con-), and jugum meaning yoke. So, two people working together, pulling their weight equally. The concept of equality and justice is prevalent here, and makes the breaking of it through violence all the harsher. As well, we conjugate verbs, they become inflected by the Other, the person they are assigned to.What does this difference between English and French? I don’t know, but it’s huge, and problematic in both cases. But it also adds some richness to the conceptualization of these expressions, and there is poetic and healing value in exploring latent baggage of certain realities that we might be victims of.

Graphic vs graphique

Both the English and French forms of the adjective are used to refer to visuals, to images of sorts, but only the English use it to also mean something that is very vivid, with realistic details, often said of accidents or gory events. The fact that these two meanings are contained in one word is interesting. In English, a written description can be graphic. This means that English makes a certain equation of visuality with reality. Something with graphic qualities is something which is vivid and does not spare details. If it is shown visually, it is graphic in both senses. There might be a hidden connotation here: words hide while images reveal. Graphique, on the other hand, is purely a technical term that refers to visuals.

 

 

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