As Vincent would say in Pulp Fiction: “It’s the little differences…”. Indeed, it is the hints of an accent, a usage that is off, like using a British term in the USA, the wrong preposition, not quite the right term; it is the little things, which unveil your non-native state.
For example, I used to say “to walk with naked feet”. I knew it was not quite right and would have to ask: “What is the correct expression again?” – “To go bare feet”… Naked, bare… same thing, right?
// Nude / adjective // Nudity / Noun // also meaning “without covering of the skin” or for a color tone, it is a beige which resembles the skin color. Etymology: entered English 1531 as a legal term « unsupported, not formally attested”, from Latin nūdus ‘naked, bare’.
// bare / adjective (Homophones: a bear, to bear) // minimal (“bare necessities”), uncovered, having no decoration, simple Etymology: Old English bær, meaning “unconcealed”
In French, the equivalent terms all come from the same Latin root: nu, dénuder, nudiste/ nudisme, nudité, dénuement… all with quite different meanings though. It is a “bête noire” (pet peeve) of my husband, because as an American, he has trouble saying “nous” (noo) vs. “nu”, so it often sounds like he uses the latter for all instances
(and I find it so cute, shhh!!).
The difference a comma makes
The reason I was actually thinking about the term, is that the issue of the distinction between “naked” and “bare” came up during an interpreting call. See the two sentences below, and tell me how you would interpret it when hearing it (versus reading it):
1) L’homme était couché sur le sol nu.
2) L’homme était couché sur le sol, nu.
For #1, the translation would be “The man was lying on the bare floor”.
For # 2, the comma indicates a pause, and the adjective “nu” is actually attached to the subject, the man: “The man was lying on the floor, naked”.
But when hearing it at first, I had a doubt and had to ask for a repetition to confirm there was no pause between “sol” and “nu”, and explained the dilemma to my client, who asked me to flat ask which it was (“C’est l’homme ou le sol qui est nu?”). I had never encountered that situation before, but these are the challenges of interpreting vs. translating (and this almost sounds like “These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise, to boldly go where no man has gone before…”), it is the Interpreting Trek…
But let’s not end this post without some usage tips:
// Marcher pieds nus (être nu-pieds). // To walk bare feet (to be barefoot).
// Elle est arrivée aux États-Unis toute nue, dans un dénuement complet. // She arrived in the USA with nothing but the shirt on her back, in complete destitution.
// Les arbres dénudés me rappellent que nous sommes toujours en hiver et que le printemps se fait attendre. // The bare trees remind me that it is still winter and that spring is still a long time coming.
And by the way, “mettre à nu + qch” (per our title) means to expose, to lay bare and is not to be confused with “se mettre nu(e)”, to strip, to take one’s clothes off. Keep your clothes on this week-end!