Français de nos régions.

Le français de nos régions vous intéresse ? (Does regional French interest you?) Then you’ll enjoy this site, with sections on pneu ou peneu ?, words pronounced differently in different parts of France (persil: is the final -l pronounced or not?), words newly added to the dictionary, and much else. I know marie-lucie will be interested; I hope others will.

Comments

  1. Perhaps m-l could also confirm if there’s a word provinces “provinces”; not just Provence and how it all relates to specific regions.

    I noticed travelling in rural Southern France how an extra vowel gets added to the end of every word, not just those written with one: vingt-e.

  2. marie-lucie says:

    AntC: Indeed there’s a word provinces “provinces”, a direct adaptation of Latin provincia. La Provence is a French adaptation of the Occitan provença, from the Latin name Provincia Romana which predated the total conquest of Gaul.

    Under the ancien régime (the monarchy) there were many provinces, of unequal sizes and resources, reflecting historical circumstances. They were administered from the capital but the largest ones had a fair amount of internal autonomy. The number and variety of the provinces made interprovincial commerce difficult and slow as measurements, rules and regulations were also varied. That was one reason why the Revolution adopted the metric system, which solved a lot of those problems. The provinces were also abolished as administrative units, replaced by the much smaller départements for local administration – any citizen was supposed to be at no more than one day’s travel from the administrative seat.

    Nowadays these smaller units still exist but province-like regional entities have been set up, often using the former borders of some of the larger provinces. This was a psychologically smart move as many people with roots in one of the old provinces are emotionally attached to it, while few are attached to a département. Depending on the context (and the historical date) the word région could be simply geographical or also have an administrative significance. I don’t know all the details, but I am sure Wikipédia.fr does!

    in rural Southern France how an extra vowel gets added to the end of every word,

    Especially in rural areas, Southern French speech has an Occitan substrate, whether or not the people speak Occitan or not. In Occitan there are word-final consonants, but in many cases they are unreleased and many speakers are unaware of them, so the default ending is a vowel. As a result, when French requires a final consonant (at least in some contexts, as with vingt ’20’), that consonant gets a schwa-release.

  3. marie-lucie says:

    Merci LH!

    (persil: is the final -l pronounced or not?)

    This spelling pronunciation seems to be more and more widespread in France , but not so in Canada which once more preserves conservative pronunciations, many of which are my own and those of my family of origin.

    Lately I have been thinking of this very topic (in a historical perspective) for a presentation at our regional linguistics conference this fall. LH’s announcement therefore comes à point.

  4. Very interesting. A marginal thing there, but one that I find of interest: some of the respondents used z-liaison in cent euros. This shows the tendency, in Modern French, to reanalyse the sandhi /z/ of les, des, mes, deux etc. before a vowel or glide as belonging in the onset of the next word — as if the plural of œil /œj/ were /zjø/ rather than yeux /jø/. Hence deu(x) z-euro(s), troi(s) z-euro(s), and by analogy cen(t) z-euro(s) for some speakers.

  5. Eli Nelson says:

    @Piotr: and of course, another famous example of that is “quatre z-” for some people (apparently, perhaps particularly common in the expression “entre quatre yeux”, or so the internet tells me). The s of “leurs”, although standard, is also analogical according to Auguste Brachet (1883).

  6. Replacing a liaison of “s” with “t” or vice versa, as well as making other false liaisons in French is referred to as a “pataquès” from the phrase “je ne sais pas à qui est-ce”.

    http://www.cnrtl.fr/definition/pataquès

  7. David Eddyshaw says:

    “This shows the tendency, in Modern French, to reanalyse the sandhi /z/ of les, des, mes, deux etc. before a vowel or glide as belonging in the onset of the next word”

    Zydeco!
    Eh toi …

  8. The s of “leurs”, although standard, is also analogical according to Auguste Brachet (1883).

    Well sure, it’s from illorum.

  9. marie-lucie says:

    David E: … the tendency, in Modern French, to reanalyse the sandhi /z/ of les, des, mes, deux etc. before a vowel or glide as belonging in the onset of the next word”

    This is not very modern, unless you use “Modern French” as anything more recent than the 17th century. French Creoles, which I don’t think use articles at all, all use a z- ‘plural prefix’ before vowels or glides, e.g. Zoreilles ‘white people’ (considered to have big ears). Yes, Zydeco is another instance (from Z-haricots ‘beans’, I think).

    “entre quatre yeux”

    Nobody ever says this without a -z- ! In fact I find it hard to pronounce quatre yeux. It is always En-tre quat’ – z yeux (4 syllables). I would always write quatres in this context. There is even a familiar verb zyeuter ‘to take a look at’.

    It means something like ‘close enough to peer intently into each other’s eyes’, referring to a confidential though not usually friendly conversation, for instance between an employee and a supervisor in the latter’s office, with the door closed.

    The variant quatres was probably common if not standard at one time, as in the folk song Malbrough s’en va-t-en guerre ‘Marlborough goes to war’, which is mostly about the death and funeral of a famous general: Il fut porté en terre / Par quatres officiers ‘He was carried to the grave / By four officers’ (par – qua – tre – zo – ffi – ciers).

    cent-z euros

    There is at least one other (standard) example: x cents ans ‘x hundred years’ (e.g. deux cents ans, etc) (but cent ans ‘100 years’).

  10. marie-lucie says:

    p.s. My definition ‘close enough …’ is about entre quatres yeux not zyeuter.

  11. Fascinating stuff, I’m glad I made the post!

  12. And there’s the de-plural zoiseau.

  13. marie-lucie says:

    PG: That looks like something a small child would say. But a small child could also say un tarbre ‘a tree’, generalizing from un grand arbre, un petit arbre, etc.

  14. I’m pretty sure the high incidence of the collocation les petits oiseaux /le pti zwazo/ is responsible for the occasional creation of an analogical singular. I know it from Cajun and French Creole folk stories (as zoiseau ~ zozo), but apparently it also occurs more widely across le monde fracophone as an informal word for ‘bird(ie)’. Wiktionary informs me that it can also be a slang euphemism for a penis.

    As for the plural zoiseaux, see Chers zoiseaux, the title of a play by Anouilh.

  15. There is even a familiar verb zyeuter ‘to take a look at’.

    It’s uncanny how similar developments are reenacted independently in words of a similar meaning. Polish baczyć ‘look out, pay attention’ (imperfective) comes from the metanalysis of obaczyć (perfective) as if it reflected *o(b)-bačiti, whereas the actual segmentation was *ob-ačiti. The morphological base here is *ak- < *h₃okʷ- (with a lengthened root vowel), as in the IE term for ‘eye’. In other words, it’s a distant cognate of French œil.

    Middle English eie ~ eghe ~ ee ‘eye’ quite often received an initial /n/ “stolen” from a preceding indefinite article (an) or possessive pronoun (mīn, thīn). The original plural was “weak”, eien ~ een (etc.), gradually replaced by the more productive “strong” type, eies (though we also find stranger forms, like the “double weak” eenen or the hybrid plural eines). The parasitic n- was initially more common in the singular (a neye for an eye, so to speak), but it contaminated the plural as well. We find forms like sg. neye, pl. n(e)yes in mainstream English as late as the 18th century. This word has suffered horribly at the hands of evil language users. It’s a miracle that the English-speakers have reached a consensus about it (though sg. ee, pl. een persist in Modern Scots).

  16. David Marjanović says:

    In other words, it’s a distant cognate of French œil.

    …And of the root of German beobachten “observe”…?

  17. It depends on how you analyse Gmc. *axtō ‘attention’. The seemingly related verb *axi-/*axja- ‘think, suppose’ (Goth. ahjan) might reflect an older *axʷ-ji/a- (as proposed by Osthoff 100+ years ago), but Goth. aha (n-stem) ‘mind, understanding’ shows no trace of labialisation. The verdict of most etymologists is “origin unknown” here.

  18. David Marjanović says:

    Interesting. Could aha be a back-formation?

  19. Talking of word-play in French. (OK we weren’t really, I think the French “always look grave at a pun”.)

    I’m travelling in Taiwan, not expecting to see French. (There’s a Portuguese/Dutch/Japanese colonial history before the Kuomintang takeover.)

    There’s a kids clothing store chain les enphants which seems to be founded in Taiwan http://www.enphants.com/html/index.php.

    They have a cute Babar-like elephant insignia. Does that ph switch work in French?

    Also one of the major supermarket chains here is Carrefour. How did that get here?

  20. Carrefour is a French supermarket chain that has expanded into many countries of the world that are not necessarily former French colonies.

  21. marie-lucie says:

    AntC: enfants + éléphants = “Enphants” (written ph = [f])

  22. AntC: today the word *Province*, singular, is used to denote anything that is not Paris and the Île de France region. My favorite usage is for traffic info, when newscasters will use the term “le sens Paris-Province” to mean anything from due east ( if you’re going to Rennes) to due West (if your destination is Strasbourg) …
    “Les provinces” has a distinctly “ancien régime” feel to it. You’d use “les provinces de France” to describe the diversity of cultures and geography in a nostalgic way. The modern equivalent administrative division is the “région” which are currently undergoing a major upheaval. There used to be 22 and now there are 13 – mostly to make sure they are powerful and large enough to compete with German “Länder” and other European infra-national divisions.

    As for “vingt(e)” it’s a particularly funny sore spot. My own native Lorraine region (in the North east) is the only one where the final -t is pronounced. Southerners will make fun of this (their twenty ends with a classing southern nasalisation: “ving’ “) while they will happily pronounce the final -s in “moins” (less)!

  23. Carrefour is a French supermarket chain that has expanded into many countries of the world that are not necessarily former French colonies.

    Indeed, I do much of my daily shopping in the nearby Carrefour. By the way, I think most Poles (at least where I live) pronounce it /kɛrfur/ for reasons that are not clear to me.

  24. marie-lucie says:

    Merci, Paul, for the update.

    About “la province” as any part of the country that is not “la capitale”: My bilingual Canadian daughter, studying in France, was often asked Vous habitez à Montréal ou en province? ‘Do you live in Montreal or out in the country?’ This supposed that Montréal was the capital and anywhere else probably the boondocks. Actually neither she or I had lived in Québec.

  25. marie-lucie says:

    Carrefour is a French supermarket chain

    Actually a “hypermarket” chain – you can buy almost anything, from food to appliances and bicycles, in one of those stores.

  26. David Marjanović says:

    Yeah. One of them is about the size of Taiwan.

    (I haven’t actually been to a Walmart SuperCenter, but apparently that’s about the order of magnitude we’re talking about here.)

  27. @m-l thanks but I understood the pronunciations enfants + éléphants = “Enphants” (written ph = [f])

    What I mean by “does that ph switch work?” is: would it raise a wry smile for a French native speaker? as it did with me. Or would they regard it as a travesty of spelling?

    And yes I’ve shopped at many a Carrefour hypermarche before dashing back to a Channel ferry. These I’ve seen in Taiwan are much smaller suburban, not edge of town. (Not that Taiwan really does edge-of-town: one City sprawls into the next.)

  28. marie-lucie says:

    AntC, I guess both reactions could occur. But I doubt that native speakers could have come up with the elephant logo and the hybrid spelling. Resemblances of sound or spelling between semantically completely different words are more likely to come to the mind of non-native than native speakers, who think of the meaning first.

  29. Matthew Roth says:

    Thank you. This is perfect. My MA classes for French start next week. I have phonetics, so time to learn these things by ear & cry a little bit as you struggle with au vs o vs ô (as in côte vs cotte, see the example).

  30. Paul, Marie-Lucie: in Quebec the word “région” is used to designate parts of Quebec other than Montreal or Quebec city (Vous habitez en région, et pas à Montréal ou à Québec?), since Quebec is itself one of Canada’s ten provinces.

    At the same time, the adjective “provincial” still has a pejorative connotation in French, and thus it is, to a degree, avoided (“Le gouvernement québécois/du Québec” rather than “Le gouvernement provincial”, for instance). This is not true outside Quebec: in Ontario or in the other two Canadian anglophone provinces I lived in, “The provincial government” seemed to be felt as an utterly neutral expression.

  31. marie-lucie says:

    French newspapers writing about Canada call the Canadian “provinces” Etats ‘States’. One reason is to support the concept of Québec as a nation, but the other is that a French “province” is tiny compared to most of the Canadian territorial divisions, so to call Québec or Ontario a “province”, when each of them is at least as big as most European nations, does not sound right.

    Having lived at both ends of Canada, I agree with Etienne that (at least in my experience) “province” and “provincial” as used in Canadian English are neutral administrative words.

  32. Provincial governments or other abstracta are one thing, but I think provincial applied to persons or their behavior is just as derogatory in Canada as elsewhere in the anglosphere.

  33. …the lady from the provinces, who dresses like a guy
    And who “doesn’t think she dances, but would rather like to try”

    Did he mean from Britain outside of the Metropolis or from somewhere else in the Empire?

  34. I think it mostly meant the former in British usage.

    (From WP: “…guy refers to the dummy that is part of Guy Fawkes Night celebrations, hence a tasteless woman who dresses like a scarecrow.”)

  35. David Eddyshaw says:

    Tacitus describes Sejanus as a “municipalis adulter.” One feels that the sneer is at least as much at the implied hickishness as at the moral depravity.

    I shall henceforth endeavour to popularise “municipal” as an alternative to “provincial” as a term of disapprobation. It sounds more grungy.

    On the other hand, at least in the UK, “Municipal Adulterer” sounds like an official post of some kind.

  36. @m-l [Carrefour is] Actually a “hypermarket” chain – you can buy almost anything, from food to appliances …

    I withdraw and apologise for my earlier dissent. In the interests of fairness and balance I’ve just been wandering around a Carrefour here. It indeed does have “almost anything”: certainly food both local and imported; appliances including air-con units; kitchen equipment; furniture; clothes. Didn’t see any bicycles — probably because customers would get wiped out by the traffic.

    And all the goods on display are somehow compressed into tiny spaces. Little actual stock on the ‘floor’. They must have some very clever replenishment/logistics chain.

  37. Yes, Gilbert’s ‘lady from the provinces’ came from outside London. The former National Provincial Bank was set up to provide branches all over England and Wales, with a purely administrative Head Office in the capital.

  38. In gardening circles, municipal means uninspired, when referring to plantings.

  39. marie-lucie says:

    JC: Provincial governments or other abstracta are one thing, but I think provincial applied to persons or their behavior is just as derogatory in Canada as elsewhere in the anglosphere.

    You are probably right, but I don’t think that the use of provincial in this sense is very widespread as it belongs to a fairly high register.

    DE: I shall henceforth endeavour to popularise “municipal” as an alternative to “provincial” as a term of disapprobation. It sounds more grungy.

    What it first brings to my mind is the local garbage removal service.

    “Municipal Adulterer” sounds like an official post of some kind.

    “Municipal Adulterator”? surely an administrative post loathed by the local citizenry.

  40. David Marjanović says:

    Outside Paris + banlieue you are en France profonde.

    (Not the Deep State.)

  41. marie-lucie says:

    DM: Outside Paris + banlieue you are en France profonde.

    Living away, I could be wrong, but I think this phrase applies to culture, especially political culture, rather than geography. Most of my family members could say J’habite en province ‘I live in the provinces’ (i.e. not in the Paris area) but I don’t think they would ever use J’habite en France profonde outside of a political discussion. Would a person from, say, Chicago or Denver, asked where they lived, answer “I live in the real America” unless they were referring to politics (whether seriously or as a joke)?

  42. David Marjanović says:

    France profonde does seem to be mildly derogatory; I’ve only heard it from Parisians, though that doesn’t mean much considering how few people I’ve actually talked to. However, politics are pretty clearly not implied; it has apparently become a euphemism for c’est superbled, quoi.

  43. January First-of-May says:

    Actually a “hypermarket” chain – you can buy almost anything, from food to appliances …

    Sounds like Auchan (Ашан, in Russian) over here in Moscow.
    I recall using that place to buy food (my usual purchase there), pens (my most common non-food purchase there), cardboard, kitchen utensils (spoons, forks, plates, cups), books, postcards, and clothes (including bedsheets).
    Pretty sure it sold TVs as well (we didn’t need to buy any).

    Can’t recall any bicycles or A/C units (or furniture, come to think of it), but they wouldn’t have looked out of place either.
    (And some googling tells me they do sell bicycles, though it’s not clear if there are any actually “on the floor”.)

  44. marie-lucie says:

    David M: France profonde does seem to be mildly derogatory; I’ve only heard it from Parisians, …it has apparently become a euphemism for c’est superbled, qui.

    That sounds like the right interpretation. You only use the phrase if you are happy you DON’T live there.

  45. David Marjanović says:

    Yes, Auchan is another one of those. Yet another was, appropriately, named Continent before Carrefour bought it. In Italy there’s one called Mercatone – I like augmentatives.

  46. There’s also Deep England, which looks like it may have been coined in imitation of France profonde.

  47. In Russian they talk about глухая провинция [glukháya províntsiya], which literally means ‘the deaf province(s),’ though here ‘remote’ or ‘godforsaken’ would be the situational translation (and a глухой лес is a dense forest).

  48. глухой is more polysemic word in Russian then deaf in English, though it does seem to be the core meaning.

  49. Wow, this is amazing… I’ve been looking for isoglosses for French for quite some time.

    > … Southern France how an extra vowel gets added to the end of every word, not just those written with one: vingt

    I’m confused now…. even the ones that already end in a vowel, like /vɛ̃/? So /vɛ̃ə/?

  50. David, Marie-Lucie: ATILF tels us that “profonde” in that sense refers to the sense of people having kept their traditions, habits and sociological trait. I’ve seen and heard “Amérique Profonde”, e.g. “France profonde” would have been used – non ironically – by politicians and journalists up to a few years ago.
    There is definitely a twist by Parisian snobs who think they’re better than the rest of us, and they will use it in the sense of “country hicks”. The fact that mostspend their vacations in their parent’s appartement in Chateaudun or Forbach is apparently lost on them.
    I don’t think I’ve seen the phrase recently, because politicians and journalists are trying hard to stay with the times.

    Dainichi: /vɛ̃ə/ is a typically north-eastern pronunciation. Southern French will either nasalize (sp?) or vocalize the endings of other words: Tarascong for Tarascon, moinsse for moins, Marseilleuh for Marseille …. etc …
    I’m not sure why vingt is an exception, but it is a very clear of origin: my 12y.o son just reported that he’d been corrected by his French teacher this year for saying vingt-e instead of vingt now that we live in Orléans instead of the Nancy.

  51. Would a person from, say, Chicago or Denver, asked where they lived, answer “I live in the real America” unless they were referring to politics (whether seriously or as a joke)?

    Not even if they were referring to politics, since those are two notoriously liberal cities. Chicago and Denver aren’t “real America” by the same strange logic that decides that rural Iowa is more “real” than East Baltimore even though the ancestors of the people living in Baltimore often came to America well before the ancestors of the Iowans.

  52. marie-lucie says:

    Paul, I agree with you about the meaning of “la France profonde”. I think David is familiar with the Parisian scene but not so much with the rest of the country.

    Vanya, I was referring to the geographical meaning which could be attached to an originally cultural connotation. I am quite aware that most big cities are culturally different from the rural areas surrounding them.

  53. > /vɛ̃ə/ is a typically north-eastern pronunciation.

    But AntC was talking about the south, no? According to the site, the northeastern way is to pronounce the t, so I guess /vɛ̃t/ ?

  54. Adulter in Latin means someone who seeks a sexual connection that is contrary to social rules in some way. Low-ranking Sejanus, by trying to make women of the Imperial House his lover or wife, brings himself into this category. (The fact that she’s married is not so important in decadent early imperial Rome.)

  55. I think the only “deep” we have in the United States is the Deep South.

  56. Its antipodean reflection is the Australian Deep North.

  57. In Russian they talk about глухая провинция [glukháya províntsiya], which literally means ‘the deaf province(s),’ though here ‘remote’ or ‘godforsaken’ would be the situational translation
    In German, it’s usually tiefste Provinz “deepest province”.

  58. From the Zompist Purity Test, French edition:

    It seems natural to you that the telephone system (yes, singular), the power company (yes, singular), the railroad company (yes, singular), and the post office are public companies; they have no reason to be private, since they have missions de service public. In particular, the price should be the same for the same service anywhere in the country, no matter if it is in Paris or in the deepest hole in the Alps [emphasis added].

  59. If you’re French…

    You are familiar with Jean-Pierre Foucauld, Perdu de vue, Lagaf’ (for you, the best successor to Coluche), Christophe Dechavanne, Jean-Luc Delarue, Nagui, Patrick Sebastien, Patrick Sabatier, Michel Drucker, Jacques Martin, Mystères, La Chance aux Chansons….

    I’m not familiar with a single one. It would seem I am not French!

  60. marie-lucie says:

    JC: the Zompist, etc page is a little out of date: it still counts money in FF, not in Euros.

    the deepest hole in the Alps : this is not a huge hole in the ground as for instance in Yellowstone but just a little village in the farthest boondocks.

  61. January First-of-May says:

    That list is pretty old, though, like much of the rest of Zompist stuff (in particular, it predates the euro).

    [EDIT: ninja-ed.]

  62. Yes, there’s an update for U.S. culture, but most of the other cultures have never been updated. I sent him a NYC-culture, but it never got posted; I don’t know why.

    Marie-Lucie: Is the “deepest hole” meant to be profond(e) in the sense of la France profonde?

  63. That list is pretty old, though

    That would make it more likely that I would recognize names, not less.

  64. David Eddyshaw says:

    The Zompist purity tests demonstrate beyond all doubt that I am a rootless cosmopolitan. I’m not even gnomish.

  65. Is it possible to use the French word “yeux” in a context where it is pronounced without a preceding z, except in trivial cases such as “le mot ‘yeux'”?

  66. marie-lucie says:

    Bill W.: There are a few examples. I can think of une couleur d’yeux ‘an eye colour’ (parallel to une couleur de cheveux ‘a hair colour’, une couleur de peau ‘a skin colour’), or des dizaines d’yeux ‘dozens of eyes’ (e.g. of a class or audience looking at you as the speaker). In such cases there is no article or similar plural-marking word, but that has nothing to do with the topic of eyes, or the word itself, it is just a peculiarity of some noun phrases in French syntax.

  67. marie-lucie says:

    JC: Is the “deepest hole” meant to be profond(e) in the sense of la France profonde?

    I am surprised that the Zompist list appears to be compiled by a French person. Is it?

    In colloquial French un trou, literally “a hole” referring to a tiny, uninteresting place far from everything else does not usually take an adjective. Perhaps un trou perdu ‘a Godforsaken place’, meaning it is hard to find (e.g. not shown on a map, far from “civilization” – you might only happen upon it when lost). So to me un trou profond or le plus profond des trous just refers literally to ‘the deepest hole’ (natural or dug purposely). Depending on when the list was compiled, it might possibly be a reference to la France profonde, or not: to me this now common phrase is relatively new, but perhaps it is older than I think because I don’t follow French politics very closely. The date implied by the lack of Euro would argue against the current phrase.

  68. January First-of-May says:

    In Russian, it would also make sense to say в какой-нибудь глубокой дыре referring to an out-of-the-way place and not an actual deep hole.
    Though the reference to the Alps after that probably would make the literal meaning come closer to the foreground that it would be otherwise (even so, it’s still a reasonable turn of phrase).

    Depending on when the list was compiled…

    Circa mid-1990s is my best guess (definitely in the 1994-2000 range, and probably in its earlier part).

  69. I am surprised that the Zompist list appears to be compiled by a French person. Is it?

    Only this page. Zompist himself is an American and the author of the U.S. page (which links to the rest) as well as the rest of the site, but the other culture-test pages are written and submitted by members of the culture they refer to. (Well, except the imaginary cultures.)

    to me this now common phrase is relatively new

    Google Ngrams reports la France profonde as first appearing in French books around 1970, peaking in 1986, and slightly dropping off after that. In English books, however, it starts in the late 70s and has been rising steeply ever since. Deep England starts a bit later and also rises steeply. Of course, usage outside books is not tracked by Ngrams.

  70. Depending on when the list was compiled…

    Circa mid-1990s is my best guess (definitely in the 1994-2000 range, and probably in its earlier part).
    Definitely before 2000. I first found zompist’s site in that year, and the French cultural test was already there.

  71. JFoM,

    The French Alps can boast some of the deepest holes anywhere, such as Mirolda Cave and the Jean-Bernard system.

  72. The earliest version in the Internet Archive is from May 1999.

  73. marie-lucie says:

    PG: The French Alps can boast some of the deepest holes anywhere, such as Mirolda Cave and the Jean-Bernard system.

    Thank you. I confess that I had never heard of these “holes”, which are mentioned on Wikipedia.fr. Each is called un gouffre, a word closer to English “abyss” than “cave”. So indeed “the deepest hole in the Alps” refers to actual depth rather than to a remote village in “la France profonde”. (My mistake above, Aug 21 at 5:40 pm).

  74. Surely not literally: nobody lives in a chasm (the usual English word for gouffre), so there is no need to provide electricity or postal service there.

    The word gouffre immediately made me think of Gouffre Martel in Alfred Bester’s novel The Stars My Destination, which turns out to be a real place, 303m deep under the village of Sentein in the region of Ariège. It was explored in the 1930s by the great caver Norbert Casteret, who named it after his mentor Édouard-Alfred Martel.

    In the novel, the chasm is used as a prison for criminals, because in the future period of the book, most people can teleport (jaunte) from place to place provided they know where they are and where they are going well enough to visualize them. Criminals beginning their sentence are brought into the dark gouffre blindfolded, so there is no way out for them except a random teleportation into the surrounding rocks, a so-called Blue Jaunte, which is suicide. When their sentence is up, they are removed in the same way, so nobody knows how to jaunte in or out. Of course, caves often have running water ….

  75. marie-lucie says:

    JC: Surely not literally: nobody lives in a chasm (the usual English word for gouffre), so there is no need to provide electricity or postal service there.in

    Perhaps I did not express myself clearly: I did not imply that anyone lived in a gouffre, but I misunderstood the deepest hole in the Alps as referring to a Godforsaken village in the middle of nowhere, as I did not know about the actual gouffres in the region until I read Piotr’s comment.

  76. I misunderstood the deepest hole in the Alps as referring to a Godforsaken village in the middle of nowhere

    I think that must be what the author means, just the same.

  77. marie-lucie says:

    Yes, but I did not have the information to understand the pun.

  78. Provincial governments or other abstracta are one thing, but I think provincial applied to persons or their behavior is just as derogatory in Canada as elsewhere in the anglosphere.

    Spanish distinguishes the neutral adjective provincial ‘of or pertaining to a province’ from the pejorative provinciano ‘countrified; unsophisticated’.

    There’s also Deep England, which looks like it may have been coined in imitation of France profonde.

    España profunda is first attested in the mid-1980s, which suggests it calques either the French or the English expression.

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