Monday, 25 February 2013

Fait Accompli And Other French Expressions



It is an universal truth that, if you want to impress your interlocutors, you need to use French words and expressions when you speak.
Well, as I happen to be (less and less, I must admit) French, it doesn't do the trick for me. The thing is, most of the time, I don't understand what is being said. It has something to do with pronunciation. We usually stress the last syllable in French whereas the British seem to love stressing the first one. Believe me, it changes everything.

However, I am trying hard to be nice. Really hard. I will do my very best to understand what is being said but it is not as easy as it looks. I will even compliment the other person because he/she has made an effort. This is also because I hate it when people try to correct me. I am sure that they are trying to help, but don't you think that there is something deeply annoying when someone makes a point of correcting what you have just said despite the fact that they understood what you meant perfectly well?


Well, now, here is my dilemma: a colleague of mine keeps writing, at every possible opportunity 'un fait a complir', instead of 'un fait accompli'.  You all know that a fait accompli is a thing that has already happened or been decided before those affected know about it, leaving them with no choice but to accept it and get over it.  I am concerned that it might, at some point, give the wrong impression of the team (look at those who-it-alls who can't even spell correctly...) So, should I correct him or not ? He seems very proud of being able to show off his French skills and I don't want to give him a lecture because I am not a teacher and, unlike far too many people around me, I hate to show that I am right. I have learned to choose my battles and I don't really want to fight this one.

The thing is, whatever nationality you are, some things never change: some people have to be right. My former boss used to be like that : she once asked me how to write a French word (I think that it was savoir faire). I obliged, only to be told that she was sure that it wasn't the right spelling. You see, she was certain it was savoirfair. I knew I was right but didn't say anything. What was the point? She was so convinced that she knew better that I had to let it go. What if the same happens with this colleague on 'fait a complir'?

So tell me, what should I do? I was thinking of waiting for the right time and casually mention that it was 'fait accompli'. It might be worth a try. What would you do?

27 comments:

  1. Oh Lord, thank your lucky stars you don't have to listen to the "French" in the USA then!
    Perhaps you could say "I think it's actually...." or "I've always spelled it..... ." That way you're leaving the door open for him to take or leave your advice but I'm pretty sure he'll go off and quietly look it up.

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  2. I have to ask you: what are the French in the USA like? I am very curious now...I think that I will tell him...eventually!

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  3. In the cosmic scheme of things this is not a big deal, but oh, oh so annoying! It would drive me nuts, too. Do you communicate with him at all via email or memos? If so, can't you casually work "fait accompli" in one or more of these missives? In certain situations humor can work well, but that is a bit trickier.

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  4. Libenter homines id quod volunt credunt

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  5. Ooops,sorry. I meant "French" as spoken by Americans who only know a few words. In the mid-west we have places like Des Moines (in Iowa) pronounced "Day Moyne", and Des Plaines (near Chicago) pronounced "Dez Plainz".

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  6. Don't forget you also have French Americans - Quebecois and Acadians in Louisiana and Nova Scotia - Laissez les bons temps rouler as they say in Cajun French!

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  7. What just sprung to mind is a menu item in some restaurants in the US, a hot beef sandwich "served with au jus." It makes me chuckle every time.

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  8. I think you should just mention it casually. It does seem odd that people think they know better than the natives. I once pointed out in a restaurant that' "Barrister and Crab" was not the right translation for the starter on the menu - it should be "avocado and crab." The response was that the menu had been translated by an accredited translator and I must surely be wrong . Hey I'm just English what would I know?

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  9. I hate when people get an attitude about things they don't really understand! Just because you have a hunch doesn't make you an authority on something. Love the site :) if you get a chance, would love for you to check out my budget travel blog

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  10. How about a short and snappy post-it note or email - is this an office colleague or one you never see?

    I would write "Heads-up: 'fait accompli'. Cheers!" or "French Alert: 'fait accompli'. Cheers!"

    Make it short, and to the point. Who could take offence?

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  11. It is an office colleague that I see from time to time. I will have to mention something. I hope that he won't be offended (you never know with them).

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  12. That's so funny! Well, I suppose that they will have to check the translator accreditation! Some people just don't want to hear anything, and that's exactly what I fear here.

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  13. Over here, they say that 'everything tastes better in French' . i wonder if everything tastes better in broken French?

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  14. Laissez rouler indeed!

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  15. You are such a fountain of knowledge! Or should i say un puits de science?

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  16. I think that it is a very good idea, but I think that he might be so stuch in his own way that he will be sure that he is right. I can't win. That said, you are right. It is not a big deal!

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  17. Just reading this makes me want to take the first flight to visit Des Moines. Thanks for making me dream!

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  18. Is it possible to correct your coworker if he writes it on a memo next time?....much like a correction from a teacher? But then what if the memo doesn't go back to him?...Tough one....hmmm....If you're 'friends', maybe shoot him an email? Good luck with this one Muriel. I can see how annoying this must be.

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  19. At work it gets tough, and maybe in real life too. I had a co worker who asked me to teach her a little Urdu and every time I taught her a phrase she would say "Isn't it like this"..followed by a wrong version of what I just said. It was irritating but I just smiled along.

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  20. Nothing, a wise person once said: "Do you want to be happy or do you want to be right?" I'd choose the first any time.

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  21. I would let it go unless you feel it would have a detrimental effect on the future of your team's reputation. Work situations are rarely easy! In the end I'd smile knowing the truth.

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  22. I'm with you, can't bear wrong language use....just correct him...it won't do his male ego any harm either!

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  23. I wouldn't be so sure...He is so convinced that he is right that I really don't know how he will react!

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  24. We will see how it goes. I can't win, can I?

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  25. That's exactly my dilemna...I think that I will be happy!

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  26. It is annoying, isn't it? That said, we are not here to educate them, are we?

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  27. I don't know what to do. I think that I will have to let it go!

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