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Un faux-ami : « Préservatif/ Preservatives »

27 Jan

When you first immerse yourself in language B, you do your best to think, dream, sound and look native. Why? Because you know it is the only way to improve your language skills, and to stop the strange looks when you do any type of business transactions with the locals.

When I first arrived in South Carolina, I got: “What kind of accent is that??” and “A young lady left a message on my voicemail, but I could not understand a word she said.”… “Yes, that was me, ma’aaaaaaam.” There is also job discrimination against those who are “different”, but we won’t even go there, because I will not make this blog political…

So after my first year back to the USA, this time to live in Columbia, where my husband studied for his I.M.B.A. at the University of South Carolina, I had a phone conversation with a good friend of mine from high-school, Perrine. I really had not spoken any French in a while (at that time, our home language was English).


Perrine was asking me about American food and if I was gaining my weight back, eating hamburgers (my first year in S.C. as an au pair, I had gained 32 lbs. and lost them back upon my return to France… no diet!). I explained that, even when I made hamburgers, I made sure to buy meats without hormones, antibiotics and preservatives. But in French, I said: “J’achète de la viande sans hormones, antibiotiques et préservatifs.” Perrine exclaimed : « Quoi ?? Quoi ?? Naaaadia, tu sais ce que tu as dit là ?? ».

I had to think about it for a minute, and then we broke out into laughter!! Yes, the unthinkable had happened. A complete reverse culture, well language, shock…

// préservatif(s) // nom masculin : condom(s), US Only: rubber (careful, in the UK, a “rubber” is an “eraser”…),  aka capote

// conservateur(s) // nom masculin : (food, chemical) preservatives, but also (political) conservatives

I do prefer my steak without any rubber in it… or around it… I prefer my steak to be « unprotected »… And you probably do too. Happy Friday!

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