Why I love randomly learning more about languages – Part Deux

Part 1 over here!

At least we have and equivalent to these words, you might say. True, we could have had nothing at all (which I doubt because we’d have a hell of a time describing these things without appropriate words), it is still unnerving though. But here comes the worst part! We don’t, and I must insist in the don’t, we don’t have a word for dusk. Nope, nothing, nada, njet.  We can say tombée de la nuit which literally means the falling/fall of the night (just as we could say lever du jour instead of aube) but that is just a phrase, not a precise word. Even wikipedia doesn’t have a French page for dusk… So yeah, you might say its poetic, and I’m not saying it isn’t (it is!) but it’s a bit annoying when you think about it.

Yup, I know it’s completely trivial but it annoys me. And when it annoys me I can’t stop thinking about it until I find a way for it not to annoy me anymore… And I did quite a bit of thinking last night, here are some of the things I thought about. First, a small resumé of what I just explained in an easy way to visualize:

Night > dawn > twilight > sunrise > day > sunset > twilight > dusk > night again

Nuit > aube / levé du jour > crépuscule > aurore / levé du soleil > jour > coucher de soleil / couchant > crépuscule > tombée de la nuit > nuit encore

See?! We have ways to say it but not single words… But I am not here to whine. So, as you might have noticed, I added a word in French for the coucher de soleil (sunset) and that would be couchant. Apparently it would work to describe the sunset, it’s a single word and I like it (the word and the concept) so I decided to add it. I think it would be a good (and cool) way to say coucher de soleil, so at least I found a possible solution for that. But the big problem remains with dusk/tombée de la nuit, which has no single word for it. What I would like to find as a replacement for tombée de la nuit would be a word as cool as aube and that feels as poetic because wouldn’t something like aube / aurore / couchant / [insert cool and poetic word] be extraordinarily awesome?!!! Yes, it would.

From what I have heard (more like read, but who cares?) around the internet (and especially this article, which was a good part of the fuel to these thoughts and which you should go check out if you read French) one word that could be used instead of tombée de la nuit would be brune (or brunante). From what Reverso and Sansagent say it can mean dark hair, dark skin or tombée de la nuit/dusk. I’m not sure if I really like that word yet but I know I find it interesting, it’s quite poetic (much like what I would expect from an antonym of aube) and easy to remember, even if it has other meanings. I haven’t really found any other words that could suit my needs so I will have to think about it. I don’t know if I could ever place it anywhere in a text though, but I’ll try.

Now, with the addition of couchant and brune/brunante, we would get something like this :

Night > dawn > twilight > sunrise > day > sunset > twilight > dusk > night again

Nuit > aube > crépuscule > aurore > jour > couchant > crépuscule > brune / brunante > nuit encore

It’s a bit better than earlier, not perfect yet but better. This does give my mind a bit of peace. So yeah, now you know the precise terms both in English and in French, it’s up to you to use that knowledge wisely!

But, because there always is a but, even if I wanted to talk about this subject a lot (yup, sunrise and sunset are fun!) this is not the only time I have discovered terms that exist in one language but not in the other and, since it is the subject of this post, I must talk about them. I have to admit, it is quite annoying not to be able to translate exactly what someone says, with precise words and all that. The most obvious example I could give you would be with the words sibling(s). There is not single word to describe that concept in French. We either say frères (brothers), soeurs (sisters) or frères et soeurs (brothers and sisters) but we have no word for siblings. I believe you can imagine how frustrating that must be at times…

On the other hand, and this time its a win for us frenchies, we do have expressions you don’t in English (haha, take that yous suckers!). Two of these I can think of are bon appétit and l’esprit de l’escalier. The former being what you say to wish a good meal to somebody before they eat, which roughly translates as have a nice meal I believe. And the latter being the situation you find yourself in when you think about a good comeback too late, after the moment to say it has passed (it comes from the fact that Diderot, a philosopher, said he only found a good comeback to a remark that was made after he had climbed down the stairs to leave). These two expressions are found in French but have no real equivalent in English.

These discrepancies in the languages and the bridges between one language and the other make it, in my opinion, all the more interesting to learn foreign languages. These little facts, these little details, are what I thrive for, I try to always have the knowledge that somebody else won’t have just to impress because I’m like that. It’s a lot of fun being able to explain things when you are at a party, or should I say a soirée, and to be the know-it-all (which literally translates as le je-sais-tout, which would, translated in English again, but literally, be I-know-it-all or I-know-everything and not just know-it-all) from time to time. It has un je ne sais quoi* that makes it a lot of fun!

Well, that is about all I had to say, thank you for reading, I truly hope you enjoyed this (not-so) little post and I wish you a god day. See you later people! ;)

PS: * As I was writing this I just realized un je ne sais quoi (literally : a something I know not, or less literally “a small detail that I can’t quite explain“) is also a unique expression in French, it doesn’t appear to have any real equivalent in English… So, yeah, hurray for us!

Why I love randomly learning more about languages – Part Un

If I had to name any reason why I love studying and sometimes look up words or meanings in French or in English (less in other languages, though sometimes I do look up some Japanese or German, because I’m only fluent in the first two) it would be because it’s always surprisingly interesting to learn about the history and the evolution of a word. Where it comes from, what it meant, what it means now and how you’re supposed to spell/pronounce it, I find this exercise to be quite fun! Most of the time it happens because I’m not sure about how a word translates from a language into another or what the words means or how it’s spelled, but sometimes I do just think of a word and look it up and then keep looking at other words, and that goes on and on until I finally remember I have other things to do…

The reason I am telling you about this is because recently I have made a new discovery (well, actually I think I had already realized this before but it became blatantly apparent yesterday) which adds to the irk I have when I can’t find the right translation/equivalent from one language to the other. So yesterday I discovered that… there is no word for dusk in French. And it unnerves my to a point where I might even say that I can’t even. (Yeah, that much.) I believe you all know the word dusk, its spelling, pronunciation and meaning, but still let me give you the details here.

So dusk is the moment, in the evening, just after the sunset, when the sun has disappeared below the horizon but when you can still see its light, it’s basically the moment when all light disappears just before night. The equivalent for the morning would be dawn, the moment when light starts to come back at the horizon. In a day, in order, you have night (no sunlight), then dawn (sunlight but no sun), sunrise (the sun appears), the day passes, then the sun sets, sunset (the sun starts to disappear below the horizon), dusk (no more sun but still some light) and then night again. The moment in between dawn and sunrise or sunset and dusk are called twilight, when you can see the light of the sun but not the sun itself, which means that dawn and dusk are literally the first and last lights of the day. So there can be a morning twilight and an evening twilight.

Now that knowledge in itself is quite interesting, especially for a writer, when you want to write about the beginning or the ending of the day. I realized, while reading the articles about that subject, that I, myself, had often thought sunrise and dawn to be the same thing for sunset and dusk, I even mistook twilight‘s meaning. Now, however it is ever so clear, and I feel all the better for it! Unfortunately, knowledge comes with a price, and a second realization followed this first one. I did of course look up all this vocabulary in French, being a multilingual writer and reader I had to know for myself, and oh despair! I didn’t find a word in my mother tongue that could be considered and equivalent to it.

There are words for the rest though, but not as ‘cool’, if I might say so, as in English. What I mean by this is that we use phrases or expressions and not single words to describe these events.

Night is translated into nuit or la nuit. Day is jour or le jour. Twilight, I found out, is called le crépuscule, which is a nice word I have to admit. Dawn is l’aube, which is also a cool word to have. Up to that point it’s quite straightforward and the same but then it gets harder. Sunrise and sunset are very simple and easy to understand words but in french we don’t really have that. We have lever de soleil, which literally translates as the rising/rise of the sun, for sunrise and coucher de soleil for sunset, so yeah, you might say that it is also quite nice to have phrase/expressions like this but having a single and precise word for  these things would be way cooler in my opinion. Well, I’m not being entirely frank about all this, we do have a word for sunriseaurore, which I find extremely beautiful and poetic (just as aube) and which is awesome, but yet, nothing for coucher de soleil

Part 2 over here !