The French Are Not Excited.

Emily Monaco writes for BBC Travel about the kind of thing that normally makes me grind my teeth: the French don’t say “Je suis excité,” which is better translated ‘I am aroused,’ and(/therefore) they don’t get excited. But Monaco has lived in France for many years, her husband is French, and she backs up her thesis to some extent:

As opposed to other false friends – like ‘Je suis pleine’, which means not ‘I’m full’, as its literal translation suggests, but ‘I’m pregnant’, forcing Francophones to use periphrases like ‘J’ai assez mangé’ (‘I’ve eaten enough’) – not only is ‘Je suis excité’ not the appropriate way to convey excitement, but there seems to be no real way to express it at all.

“I usually say ‘Je suis heureuse’ [‘I’m happy’] or ‘J’ai hâte de’ [‘I’m looking forward to’],” one bilingual friend said. Neither quite captures the intensity of excitement, but it seems these are the best substitutes that French has to offer. […]

This is not, then, a mere question of translation, but rather a question of culture. Like other untranslatable terms like Japan’s shinrin-yoku (the relaxation gained from being around nature) or dadirri (deep, reflective listening) in aboriginal Australian, it seems as though the average French person doesn’t need to express excitement on the day to day.

For Julie Barlow, Canadian co-author of The Story of French and The Bonjour Effect, this is largely due to the implied enthusiasm in the word ‘excited’, something that’s not sought after in French culture. She notes that Francophone Canadians, culturally North American rather than French, find work-arounds such as ‘Ça m’enthousiasme’ (‘It enthuses me’).

“[The French] don’t appreciate in conversation a kind of positive, sunny exuberance that’s really typical of Americans and that we really value,” Barlow explained. “Verbally, ‘I’m so excited’ is sort of a smile in words. French people prefer to come across as kind of negative, by reflex. […]

Indeed, those who are unable to show the proper emotional detachment within French society can even be perceived as being somehow deranged, something that is exemplified by the pejorative labelling of former President Nicolas Sarkozy as ‘l’excité’, due to the zeal he shows in public appearances.

There’s a whole riff about history (“Authenticity has been important to the French since the Revolution”), and she quotes her husband thus:

“I used to judge Americans because I thought they were always too ecstatic, always having disproportionate reactions,” he told me years later, though now, he added, “I feel like I have two worlds in my head, one in French and one in English. I feel like the English world is a lot more fun than the French one.”

So my question to those of you who know French life and culture better than I do is: is this the usual nonsense, or is there something to it? (Thanks, Ariel!)

Comments

  1. Reading this post it occurs to me that I never use the word ‘excited,’ despite living through English in rural Ireland. (I was just uncertain about the word’s spelling, which corroborates that, I type all day every day, if I use a word regularly, I’m not uncertain about it’s spelling!) If anyone around me does, my impression it’s most likely to be negative, as far as I can see being even-tempered has social value. But of course East Donegal isn’t the US, despite the heavy Ulster Scots (= Scotch-Irish) influence.

    I have no opinion about the French approach to the feeling, beyond that it’s presumably possible there if it’s possible here.

  2. This reminds me of a story I read somewhere when the World Cup was happening in Russia. Visitors were advised (by whom I can’t remember) not to nod and smile at people in the street, as one might here, because the Russians will think you are deranged or of limited mental ability.

  3. Well, that I know is true (allowing for exaggeration in the “deranged or of limited mental ability” part). Russians actually do not smile in public.

  4. No Word For Entrepreneur

    “[The French] don’t appreciate in conversation the way to organise a business that’s really typical of Americans and that we really value,” Barlow explained… This is not, then, a mere question of translation, but rather a question of culture.

    Like other untranslatable terms like Japan’s shinrin-yoku (the relaxation gained from being around nature)

    Yeah. It’s like totally untranslatable, man.

    Norwegian bokmål has thirty-five words for excite and then there are another 115 in nynorsk. So fuck you, Emily Xenophobe.

  5. In Australia, people do say “I’m excited”. And I have relatives in England who (I think) do say it, too. (Someone in the UK might be able to set me right.)

    But, of course, it’s just a habit of speech, possibly on the same level as ‘awesome’. Is it, like ‘awesome’ helping bleach out the original strong meaning of the word? Hard to say.

    For instance, parents might speak disapprovingly of a child who gets too ‘excited’ and can’t sleep at night. How would the French say that? ‘Agité’? (Just a guess).

    Perhaps ‘excite’ arose from this kind of childish exuberance. ‘Excitement’ seems to me to be something characteristic of children and the young. It sounds a little giddy. Perhaps a little gushing. From there it may have spread into more general usage. But it still sounds perhaps a little incongruous when used of a grown man (‘President Trump was really excited to try out his gold-plated lift’) — or maybe not.

    ‘Arouse’ has acquired strong overtones of sexual excitement, but it is still also used in expressions like ‘It aroused his interest’ or ‘it arouses strong feelings of disgust’ (perhaps more written than spoken).

  6. Trond Engen says:

    Yesterday I was asked by two younger colleagues to help with a last minute effort to translate the latest incarnation of the company bullsh…, er, values into Norwegian for an event at the local University campus. The most difficult word was Excellence. They had no problem coming up with words and ways to express the concept, but all sounded wrong to them. And they were right. You can’t praise yourself with a word like that in Norwegian (or, frankly, any language but American English). We decided on dyktighet “skill, proficiency”.

    They then asked about Empowerment. Here the problem is more a new concept that may call for a coinage or an intelligent archaism (neo- vs. archaeo-logism), but there wasn’t time and we settled for myndiggjøring “giving/being given authority”.

  7. In the US it gets used in marketing–“We’re really excited about our new product”. But you wouldn’t usually hear someone say “I’m excited about this new gadget I just bought”. It’s one of those words that gets used in marketing but not often in everyday speech. Like “hearty”.

    It gets used as “Now don’t get too excited, but…” or “I’m not too excited about…”.

    That’s my impression anyway.

    It does get used about children though. Children provide an example of what being too excited is like.

  8. David Marjanović says:

    the pejorative labelling of former President Nicolas Sarkozy as ‘l’excité’, due to the zeal he shows in public appearances

    Not coincidentally, that’s the guy who changed the name of his conservative party to les Républicains a few years ago (long after he left office).

    So my question to those of you who know French life and culture better than I do is: is this the usual nonsense, or is there something to it? (Thanks, Ariel!)

    It’s one of those transatlantic cultural differences. My impression is definitely that Americans, especially women, create a feedback loop for themselves in conversation when they get, well, excited.

    German does have ich bin ganz aufgeregt, which usually means “I’m excited”, but does not specify whether I’m looking forward to something or whether I’m anxious. And if you say it all the time, you’ll probably come across as childish, because (as Bathrobe said) adults aren’t really supposed to have fun.

    when the World Cup was happening in Russia. Visitors were advised (by whom I can’t remember) not to nod and smile at people in the street, as one might here, because the Russians will think you are deranged or of limited mental ability

    Don’t do that farther west either, because – in towns and cities – one does not simply greet a random stranger. The expectation is that people want to be left alone if they don’t know you. If you greet them anyway, people will wonder if you’re confusing them with someone; if they see you greet everybody, they might conclude you actually have trouble recognizing random strangers as such, and will wonder what else you aren’t capable of.

    People do smile in public, but only in conversation.

    You can’t praise yourself with a word like that in Norwegian (or, frankly, any language but American English).

    That reminds me. A few months ago I applied for a job in German for the first time. I figured I’d just translate my CV; after all, my English and my German are good enough that I wouldn’t fall into the traps of literal translation. I found I had to rewrite whole paragraphs and drop entire sentences altogether. I don’t think my English CV is more than half American culturally, it’s not like I say I’m excellent or anything; still, it contains a few statements that aren’t culturally possible over here.

    Empowerment

    Ooh. I’ve seen empower translated into German as ermächtigen. That is impossible, because ermächtigen without an attribute is ruined forever: the law that made Hitler dictator (rendered in English as “Enabling Act of 1933”) is known as Ermächtigungsgesetz.

    And so, we’re left with a lexical gap for this new concept. I expect the word to be borrowed soon.

    a coinage or an intelligent archaism (neo- vs. archaeo-logism)

    I like that.

  9. David Marjanović says:

    Godwin’s German law: as a discussion of German vocabulary goes on, the probability of “we had a word or fixed phrase, but then the Nazis touched it, so now it’s gone” coming up approaches 1.

  10. Some years back I had my CV (resume) done by a professional in Australia. The lady had a nice business going in Australia and was trying to break into the US market. She commented that writing a person’s resume in the US was a totally different proposition from writing one in Australia. So it’s a cultural thing.

    Also, I grind my teeth when I see terms like aboriginal Australian, without any attempt to identify the language. It so obviously comes from the world that Hat is disparaging, where someone is repeating second-hand information about some language having an untranslatable word.

  11. Trond Engen says:

    David M.: adults aren’t really supposed to have fun.

    Actually, and possibly counter to common perception, this is very much not the case in Norway. We expect everybody to enjoy what they do and engage with customers, clients and colleagues in a light-hearted and respectfully disrespectful tone. I think this is a quite recent change, but it’s been so for my whole conscious life.

  12. Trond Engen says:

    Enjoyment is another of those values, by the way.

  13. Trond Engen says:

    (I had to look it up.)

  14. J.W. Brewer says:

    Wikipedia indicates that the Pointer Sisters’ Eighties hit “I’m So Excited” charted in Sweden, the Netherlands, and Flanders as well as various Anglophone jurisdictions, but doesn’t mention chart success in any Francophone markets. (Flanders and Wallonia have different charts. Really.) Not sure if that’s due to incompleteness of information or some sort of genuine cultural barrier. I put some of the lyrics into google translate, but I’m not competent to judge how idiomatic or un- “Je suis sur le point de perdre le contrôle et je pense que ça me plait” sounds to the French ear.

  15. Charles Perry says:

    Reminds me of a problem that so often irks Americans learning Arabic — there’s no precise equivalent of our word “interesting.” Dictionaries make do with the likes of mumti’, “pleasing,” or mushawwiq, “inspiring desire,” but the idea of unspecified “interest” is not expressible. Or anyway, expressed — a modicum of intellectual interest is more or less implied in the fact that you’re talking about the thing at all.

  16. I also normally don’t like this sort of thing, but an example from my life has popped into my head.

    One of the first Thai phrases every tourist learns is “Mai pen rai”, which means “not a problem”, “never mind”, “don’t worry”, etc. When we moved from Thailand to Japan, one of my first questions was about how to say the equivalent phrase in Japanese.

    At the risk of wildly oversimplifying and exaggerating: I don’t think there is an equivalent phrase in Japanese. I don’t think Japanese people see any advantage in telling each other not to worry about things.

  17. I still vividly remember “Mai pen rai” from my own years in Thailand (1958-1962); my family too moved from Thailand to Japan, and we kept saying “Mai pen rai” to each other for years.

  18. January First-of-May says:

    from my own years in Thailand (1958-1962)

    …Wait, wouldn’t this make you somewhere darn close to 70? I kind of expected you to be a lot younger.

  19. The first Japanese phrase that comes to mind is “ドンマイ”, army-English for “don’t mind”.

    Speaking of “excellence” etc., the actual cases of untranslatability between European languages is almost always this kind of business jargon. They evolve too fast in individual management cultures to permeate to other countries, yet are too symbolic to be translated into “older” words with well-established pan-European equivalence networks.

  20. about some language having an untranslatable word.

    Even a simple word like “language” can be untranslatable if we take into account all the meanings and connotations.

    Eg, Chinese 話 (Huà) doesn’t mean same thing as English “language” (it’s more like “any linguistic variety spoken somewhere no matter how small or little different”)

  21. @Charles Perry: Yes, I was irked by this point when learning Turkish; it’s not so easy to express “interesting” there. My teacher said you could say “enteresan”, but this obvious French borrowing seems like an affectation and I’m not sure it’s used much in the same way as in English. The dictionary offers “ilginç”, but this one does not seem to be used as “interesting” is in English, either…

  22. like ‘Je suis pleine’, which means not ‘I’m full’, as its literal translation suggests, but ‘I’m pregnant’

    Uh? I’ve never heard it with that meaning.

  23. Does Turkish have ways of saying “I’d like to know more”, “That piques my curiosity” or “I didn’t know that”? Or maybe “I could learn a lot from you” or “That is information fit for a king”.

    Don’t forget, “interesting” is such an anodyne word in English that it can be used in an entirely non-committal way to mean “I’m not impressed” or “I’m not interested”.

    I can think of lots of Japanese expressions with a meaning like “Mai pen rai”. The trouble is they’re slightly too ponderous to be thrown out casually and unthinkingly to all and sundry.

    Wait, wouldn’t this make you somewhere darn close to 70?

    The Hat is ageless, like an ancient withered tree with only vacuity at its heart (a virtue if you believe in Buddhism or Daoism, perhaps less so if you don’t).

  24. Trond Engen says:

    With business jargon or especially this kind of one-word slogans, the untranslatability is as much due to the words standing alone without context to narrow the scope. Each word was chosen for its full range of meanings and cultural connotations, and it’s nigh on impossible to hit all of those and nothing contradictory in another language. In the case of the company values, it would be easier to look at all of them together and find an equivalent list.

  25. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    My feeling, but not very strongly felt, is that this is the usual nonsense. I have the impression, but I need to pay attention to it, that French people do use excité with much the same meaning as in English.

    As for Les Républicains, I found that a most extraordinary choice of name, especially as it was apparently prompted by Sarkozy’s great admiration for the Republican Party of the USA (how is that possible, one might ask). For a while I continued to call it l’ex-UMP, as did some journalists, but that usage was difficult to maintain. The French do love changing the names of institutions, however, and then they agonize over why their universities don’t rank very well in the Shanghai rankings.

  26. January First-of-May says:

    like ‘Je suis pleine’, which means not ‘I’m full’, as its literal translation suggests, but ‘I’m pregnant’

    A literal Russian translation of “I’m full”, я полный, would probably be interpreted as an euphemistically stated “I’m fat”.

    (Russian does have a word for the food meaning of “full”, though – сытый. It’s just a completely different word from the one used for a full container.)

  27. The core meanings of “exciting” and “excited” are not semantic complements of each other.

  28. Godwin’s German law: as a discussion of German vocabulary goes on, the probability of “we had a word or fixed phrase, but then the Nazis touched it, so now it’s gone” coming up approaches 1.

    I like this. When the UK government was discussing introducing ID cards, I proposed a rule: reject any policy proposal which sounds sinister or threatening when translated into German. It was immediately pointed out to me that this would include most policy proposals. And, indeed, most things.
    Sippenhaft is that rare thing, a policy that sounds more sinister when explained in English. “Collective punishment of a family for the acts of one member” sounds awful, but “sippenhaft” sounds like a slang word for an aperitif.

  29. Trond Engen says:

    Norwegian Jeg er full means “I’m drunk”.

  30. David Marjanović says:

    Interesting means different things to different Americans: I’ve been told of a misunderstanding where one thought he’s interesting meant “I’m about to fall in love with him”, while the other had meant it as “he’s so bland I’m saying as little about him as I can”, basically damning him with faint praise.

    My feeling, but not very strongly felt, is that this is the usual nonsense. I have the impression, but I need to pay attention to it, that French people do use excité with much the same meaning as in English.

    Yabbut in which English?

    The French do love changing the names of institutions, however, and then they agonize over why their universities don’t rank very well in the Shanghai rankings.

    Oh yes. For French purposes, I’m not a doctor of some field of study, I’m a Docteur de l’Université Pierre et Marie Curie. Guess what? No such institution exists! It did back in 2010 when I graduated, but since then it has merged back into the Sorbonne where it had come from not much earlier.

    But with political parties it’s worse. They’re constantly dissolved and founded anew in France, not merely relabeled, split or merged.

  31. David Marjanović says:

    sounds sinister or threatening when translated into German

    Oh, it’s not the sound: consider Endlösung. It’s the feeling when you remember where you recognize that word from.

  32. Norwegian Jeg er full means “I’m drunk”.

    Scots is “fou” – but I am not sure if it derives from French “fou” meaning mad (it’s pronounced the same way) or English “full”. Or possibly somewhere else!

  33. David Eddyshaw says:

    “Full”, definitely (despite the Auld Alliance.) It means “full” in the ordinary non-alcoholic sense too.

  34. David Eddyshaw says:

    Because why not:

    I amna fou’ sae muckle as tired – deid dune.
    It’s gey and hard wark coupin’ gless for gless
    Wi’ Cruivie and Gilsanquhar and the like,
    And I’m no’ juist as bauld as aince I wes.

    The elbuck fankles in the coorse o’ time,
    The sheckle’s no’ sae souple, and the thrapple
    Grows deef and dour: nae langer up and doun
    Gleg as a squirrel speils the Adam’s apple.

    Have we not all been there? Have we not all experienced this fankling of the elbuck? I know I have.

  35. When we felt angry with our CEO (which was often), we used to translate his position title into German – Geschäftsführer.

    Somehow this sounded just right….

  36. I don’t think I’ve encountered the phrase “on the day to day” before.

  37. Visitors were advised (by whom I can’t remember) not to nod and smile at people in the street, as one might here, because the Russians will think you are deranged or of limited mental ability.

    Not only in Russia. This immediately reminded me of a scene in Midnight Cowboy–Jon Voight on the streets of NYC–that puzzled me a bit when I first saw it as a very young man fresh out of West Virginia.

  38. …Wait, wouldn’t this make you somewhere darn close to 70? I kind of expected you to be a lot younger.

    I am in fact 67, and I am very pleased by your expectation!

  39. Because why not:

    Why indeed? By gad, I like a man who quotes Hugh MacDiarmid at the drop of a hat.

  40. Well, as an American in California, on the day to day, adults say they are “excited” a lot. Especially when looking forward to a concert, a party, a weekend, a new phone, a movie, dinner, being able to take a nap, it raining outside, for ‘when this is finally over’, for ‘when this begins’, about ‘this new development’, basically anything that is coming up in the future.

    And they are usually Very Excited about the upcoming thing, not just regular excited.

    They are, however, not excited by negative things. They dread taking out the garbage, or getting the results of tests, or talking to the boss, or getting older.

  41. My impression is that the French play it cool compared to Americans, and that they are more negative, finding cultural unity in their complaints. But the attempts to link culture and language are the usual nonsense. The French are enthusiastic. Part of my attraction to France is specifically that people are so enthusiastic about art, beauty, food, etc. “Je suis très passionné par ____.” Many words fill in that blank.

    The author is incorrect as a matter of language when she use “French friends saying that a dish they tried in a restaurant was just ‘fine’” as an example of lack of enthusiasm. “Bien” is used for a wide range of levels of enthusiasm. It is not simply “fine,” “okay.” Has she never been at a wine-tasting and witnessed this:

    (sip) “C’est bien.” (sip) “C’est très bien.” (sip) “C’est très très bien!” (sip, sip, sip) “C’est très très très bien!”

    People I knew in Lyon were allowed to be enthusiastic about their fun. Perhaps the author’s friends, in the 17th in Paris, are not so lucky.

  42. J.W. Brewer says:

    I don’t know about French, but if memory serves I was long ago advised, as part of a group of American teenagers about to be exchange students in West Germany (as it then was), that the word-for-word “ich bin voll” was NOT the idiomatic way to say “I have had enough to eat and thus don’t want any more right now” but WAS an idiomatic way to say “I am pregnant,” that being the sort of idiomatic thing that the female American teenagers in our group might want to avoid accidentally saying to their host families.

  43. Still Waters says:

    Trond Engen : “Norwegian Jeg er full means “I’m drunk”.”

    That’s the only meaning “Je suis pleine” can have in my dialect of French. “Pleine” can refer to pregnant livestock, but not to pregnant human beings.

  44. David Marjanović says:

    “Bien” is used for a wide range of levels of enthusiasm. It is not simply “fine,” “okay.”

    I concur.

    in West Germany […] WAS an idiomatic way to say “I am pregnant,”

    I’ve never encountered this.

    Voll can mean “drunk”, specifically so drunk that you generally can’t say it about yourself (because you can’t talk anymore or at least aren’t self-aware enough anymore). But that, too, is regional and/or rare; less rarely, it’s compounded with seemingly random nouns, like “star” and “hail” in sternhagelvoll.

    Ich bin so voll means you’ve had way too much to eat, definitely not just enough.

    Pregnant = schwanger. Increasingly rare euphemism: in anderen Umständen, lit. “in other/different circumstances”. Celebrities have ein süßes Geheimnis “a sweet secret”, a phrase I’ve read but never heard.

    “I’ve had enough to eat” = ich bin satt.

  45. J.W. Brewer says:

    Hey, maybe the alleged pregnancy sense was an unreliable urban rumor both for German and French? But at least it motivated us to say “ich bin satt” when contextually appropriate. (I remembered “satt” by thinking of the parallel to “satiated,” but I’d be surprised if that’s actually the etymological truth.)

  46. Stu Clayton says:

    Prepare to be surprised !

    # satiate (v.)
    mid-15c., from Latin satiatus, past participle of satiare “fill full, satisfy,” from satis “enough,” from PIE root *sa- “to satisfy.” Related: Satiated; satiating.
    #
    [etymonline]

    # satt
    das Adjektiv lässt sich über mhd. sat, ahd. sat auf germ. *sada– „satt“ zurückführen, einer Ableitung der idg. Verbalwurzel *sə– „sattmachen, sättigen“; die Ausgangsbedeutung ist also „gesättigt“; in den außergermanischen Sprachen zeigen sich Verwandtschaften mit lat. satur „satt“ und litau. sotús „satt; nahrhaft“ #
    [Wahrig]

  47. Echoes to an earlier post…yes, the French have an ingrained verbal sense of the second-degree, n’en deplaise a the excitable Ms Monaco . They dissimulate first and foremost. The direct, some would say childish, expression of bug-eyed enthusiasm is counter-intuitive to the worldly French psyche. Americans (Brits) easily misconstrue the lack of like enthusiasm for a lack of enthusiasm tout court.

    Several expressions that come to mind: Ca alors! La peche! La vache! trop bien! etc etc etc accompanied by cultural face and hand gestures.

    You also have loads of reflexive expressions: Ca m’a fait….rigole, marre, du bien, sourire bander etc etc etc

  48. John Evans says:

    The adjective most over-used by England cricketers these days (when asked by interviewers to sum a good individual or team performance) is ‘pleasing’.

  49. David Marjanović says:
  50. Regarding the cultural specificity of “excited”:

    As a kid in California, I had some kind of impending travel to compete in something and a neighbor asked my mother, “Are you excited?” She (still very culturally Russian at that point) was confused by the question and answered “no”, which was of course in turn extremely confusing to the neighbor.

  51. In my youth in Japan, I think I heard mondai nai (‘no problem’) often enough, but that could have been a calque used mainly by English-Japanese bilinguals. I’ve recently been attending a study group poring through a dissertation on a northern Ryukyuan language. The author of the dissertation is not too fluent in colloquial English, and when I emailed him to say I would miss this week’s session, he emailed back “Never mind”, which I think he meant to be the equivalent of “No problem”, so I guess mondai nai is not in his common usage.

  52. Trond Engen says:

    Has there been research into how and when the American culture for (to foreign ears) exalted language developed? And why only in America? I have this hypothesis that it’s the fact that America was decades ahead of the rest of the world in the development of competitive commercial radio with its constant shift between commercials and radio hosts working to keep their audience listening for another five minutes.

  53. I would guess that it goes back much farther, to the religious revivals of the early 19th century. Americans were notorious from then on for their vociferous enthusiasm.

  54. @GrumblyStu

    I’m not sure how surprised I am. Would satt by any chance be related to English ‘sate’?

  55. David Eddyshaw says:

    My extensive research into this issue has revealed that the concept “exciting” is so alien to the Japanese that the very word has had to be borrowed from the American:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYgiTgCgAAc

  56. ワクワクしている waku waku shite iru

  57. David Eddyshaw says:

    (Just as the concept “child” was so alien to the ancient Britons that the very word had to be borrowed from the Latin.)

  58. I worry sometimes that the people who (have the time to) post on LH are mostly Grand Old Farts, and that soon the axe may reach the roots. Already some of our number have departed these haunts, and where are sufficient young people to follow them? I myself have only recently become a G.O.F. at age 60 less than six months ago, so this is a live concern for me.

    Or as I have said often on various electronic venues: “New bloooooooood, we need neeeeeeewwwww bloooooooooood.”

  59. Allan from Iowa says:

    Since no francophone has weighed in on J. W. Brewer’s example yet, I’ll draw on my schoolbook French and suggest that the Pointer Sisters are better translated as “je croit que ça me plait” rather than “je pense que ça me plait” — this is a matter of belief, not of reasoning.

  60. Allan from Iowa says:

    Amateur Reader (Tom) said: “Perhaps the author’s friends, in the 17th in Paris, are not so lucky.” Is that the 17th arrondissement or the 17th siècle?

  61. Stu Clayton says:

    John: New bloooooooood

    It’s the old roué’s discovery that he now above all cherishes innocence, e.g. of young women.

    Looking back from 69 5/6 years of age, “Grand” was only the first stage. You have “Gripey Old Fart” to look forward to. I can’t begin to tell you how satisfying it is to shake one’s cane in impotent rage. You have every license to do so, since nobody expects you to actually *do* anything about what displeases you.

  62. January First-of-May says:

    I’m not sure how surprised I am. Would satt by any chance be related to English ‘sate’?

    It does appear to be, though indirectly (same root but different proto-forms) – the direct English cognate is apparently, of all things, sad, as in “unhappy”.

  63. The Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited” was mentioned up-thread. Of course, the meaning there is the one that is supposedly confined to French – “I’m so aroused.” It looks to me that French and English have exactly the same word with exactly the same range of meaning, but that in French the sexual connotation is (in current usage, anyway) predominant.
    I am old enough to remember when “passionate” had a predominantly sexual connotation. Nowadays people (and companies!) can be passionate about diabetes care, or customer service. Does this mean that Americans have become less sexual? I truly doubt it.

  64. Looking back from 69 5/6 years of age, “Grand” was only the first stage. You have “Gripey Old Fart” to look forward to. I can’t begin to tell you how satisfying it is to shake one’s cane in impotent rage. You have every license to do so, since nobody expects you to actually *do* anything about what displeases you.

    I have reached this stage, and it is a fine thing.

  65. Well, it’s similar in Swedish. The most literal translation of I’m excited, Jag är upphetsad, is more or less limited to sexual arousal (and sometimes angriness), and the most idiomatic expression would be “Jag ser fram emot…” (I’m looking forward to…). Of course, inbetween there is a wide range of words for being excited in the non-sexual sense: uppåt, glad (happy), förväntansfull and so on. From my outside perspective, I’m of course not so much missing the ultimate Swedish word for excited as wondering why people speaking English don’t look forward to things as much as we do here in the Swedish-speaking part of the world. Surely they must live a most boring life? *that last was meant as irony*

    It doesn’t help that some online dictionaries don’t capture this sense of “excited”. I just went looking up excite on the tyda.se website, and all their examples were made to fit the example phrase “excite the audience”, which is another sense of the word altogether.

  66. Shouldn’t “Gripey” be “Grumbly”?

    I guess I’m one of the young’uns at 54.

  67. I’ve definitely heard Canadian francophones use excité for “excited” on multiple occasions. Probably just Acadians? Or possibly even Montrealers?

    In Serbocroatian, there is uzbuđen/a, which can mean both ‘excited’ and ‘aroused’, but is primarily used for the former (it’s a pretty formal way to express the latter). And still, even in that meaning it doesn’t feel to me like something people say much in real life. A slang word along those lines would be nabrijan/a (which can also be used for being worked up over something, and maybe other things I’m forgetting at the moment), and that is what you’d be more likely to hear from people in an informal context, if they were to use anything. Or at least it was, not sure if it’s still common with today’s youth.

  68. John Cowan says:

    I am very much still in the stage where people expect me to do something about things which displease them, and as I suffer from an excess of niceness, I generally do (or try). And being surrounded by gripers, I have less than no desire to become one myself.

  69. David Marjanović says:

    Some study once found:
    Germans complain about people who complain a lot.
    Austrians don’t.

  70. “good soldier” Sweik once christened an officer semifart for being middle age, middling rank, and not as curmudgeonly as expected from a fully developed “old fart”.

  71. Stu Clayton says:

    Some study once found:
    Germans complain about people who complain a lot.
    Austrians don’t.

    For those who might not grok this delicious little sally right off the bat: Austrians complain a lot.

  72. I’d like to second “Amateur Reader (Tom)”‘s suggestion of passionné, which is the word that immediately came to my mind as well. It’s not a perfect one-to-one match IMHO, but I think it’s in the right ballpark.

    > I worry sometimes that the people who (have the time to) post on LH are mostly Grand Old Farts, and that soon the axe may reach the roots.

    For what it’s worth, I’m 34 . . . but maybe I’m a Grand Old Fart at heart? 🙂

  73. Shouldn’t “Gripey” be “Grumbly”?

    Actually, I think it should be “grumpy” if the BBC TV series Grumpy Old Men is anything to go by. “The format shows a number of well-known middle-aged men talking about any issues of modern life which irritate them”. Episodes can be found on Youtube.

  74. Great quote from the first Grumpy Old Men program in series 2 (Youtube clip at 27:20): “I’ve always taken the view that real men hang around libraries, particularly poetry libraries, and string quartet concerts, and I’ve never felt in any way threatened by my lack of interest in football, or cricket as it’s sometimes called”.

  75. Kate Bunting says:

    I too was told, when learning French at school in the 1960s, not to say ‘Je suis pleine’ when declining an offer of more food. However, my ‘Petit Larousse’ implies that the sense ‘pregnant’ refers to animals.

  76. It’s odd that Swansk doesn’t have a proper word for excited. What’s the point of having the 37 words for snow if you can’t get excited about its arrival. Norwegian has begeistret for excited as well as spennende for exciting (I see there’s a spännande in Swedish but the verb spänna seems to have more to do with tensile stress and spanning obstructions than with excitement).

  77. Trond Engen says:

    Yes. “Det er så spennende!” is good match for a sexually innocent “I’m so excited””. Spennende means “exciting” but also “thrilling”. Spenning is “excitement, suspense”. This gives spenningsfilm “thriller, (film) drama of suspense”. Jeg er spent means “I’m excited (in anticipation of something)”, but to catch the level of excitement you often need an amplifier — jeg er veldig spent, jeg er kjempespent.

    The lack of a certain word for a certain concept in a language will often be because the concept is expressed differently, e,g. like here, with an exocentric ins0tead of an endocentric adjective, or with a verb instead of a noun, or whatever.

  78. David Marjanović says:

    Spannung in German, literally “tension”, refers to literary suspense as well. Anything that is thrilling or doesn’t let go of your attention – might be an election or a sportsball game – is therefore spannend. And you are gespannt in anticipation.

    football, or cricket as it’s sometimes called

    This is wonderful.

  79. Right, Trond. That’s a much more likely explanation than saying “it’s a question of culture” – as if only Americans get excited and only the Japanese relax in the presence of nature – which is loony and bigoted as well as unverifiable.

  80. “football, or cricket as it’s sometimes called”

    This is wonderful.

    Yes.

  81. Trond Engen says:

    David M.:Spannung in German, literally “tension”, refers to literary suspense as well. Anything that is thrilling or doesn’t let go of your attention – might be an election or a sportsball game – is therefore spannend. And you are gespannt in anticipation.

    I should have thought of thinking of German. The Scandinavian usage is obviously calqued from south.

    football, or cricket as it’s sometimes called

    This is wonderful.

    Aidgie Peenaidgie:Yes.

    Thirded.

  82. I too was told, when learning French at school in the 1960s, not to say ‘Je suis pleine’ when declining an offer of more food. However, my ‘Petit Larousse’ implies that the sense ‘pregnant’ refers to animals.

    I suspect what’s going on is that teachers want to break students of the habit of using a faux ami, and a dramatic and memorable way of doing so is to say “If you say that, people will think you are saying you are pregnant!” — omitting the minor detail that that sense is only used for animals.

  83. About being pregnant.
    In good old English to expect, of course, means to be pregnant, but sometimes is also used in more general sense of expecting something other than a baby. The same works in Russian and there comes a perfectly translatable joke:

    Young boy whose mother is expecting a new baby sees a fat man at a bus stop and asks “Sir, what are you expecting?” – “A bus, I guess”.

  84. Bathrobe, I was alluding to Stu Clayton’s earlier name, Grumbly Stu.

  85. “That’s a much more likely explanation than saying “it’s a question of culture” – as if only Americans get excited and only the Japanese relax in the presence of nature – which is loony and bigoted as well as unverifiable.”

    Except….it is a question of culture. Or at a minimum, the centuries-old Swedish “culture” that had no cultural reference for the word “excited” in the way your excitable sensibility would prefer. Whose loon has flown the coop?

  86. “Eccitato” has a sexual connotation in Italian, too, but “excited” can usually be translated as “emozionato.” If anything, “emozione” and related words tend to be a problem for IT>EN translators because they’re so overused in Italian marketing copy, with the assumption that all emotions are good ones. Bathroom fixtures are not things we usually think of as “emotional” in English (or even “exciting”).
    I don’t think this means that Italians are actually getting more worked up about their home decor than the average American, though; it’s just a question of what makes for an acceptable cliché. And my French is pretty rusty by now, but honestly, I don’t see “ravi” or “impatient” or “enthousiaste” or “agité” – depending on context – as showing more sang-froid than “excited.”

  87. Lars (the original one) says:

    Relative to Scandinavian, the English semantic map just has an extra entry. We have a number of overlapping words, as others have said, whose central meaning would not be ‘excited’, but they can all take a bite out of that sense too until there’s nothing left:

    spændt/spænnende — expectant, suspenseful
    begejstret — enthusiastic
    henført — rapt
    ophidset — aroused (sexually or not), agitated

    (Swedish does have begeistrad but I think it’s literary only now and the sense is more = ‘rapt’, so they use entusiastisk instead. Don’t believe Google Translate, exciterad means ‘agitated’ if anything).

    But this is no different than the situation with German or French, you can rarely give a one-for-one gloss from one language to another with any precision.

  88. A treasury of Spanish false friends is in an early episode of King of the Hill. The running joke is that Peggy Hill, a substitute Spanish teacher, speaks atrocious Spanish, and is unaware of it (lots of people are unaware of things on that show.) In that episode, she has to defend herself in a Mexican court of law, see here. In the end she gets off because of her terrible Spanish, but she thinks it’s because of her eloquence.

  89. I am in fact 67, and I am very pleased by your expectation!
    That leaves three years to plan a birthday party, with LH’ers in person. I’m serious. I’d fly from the West Coast for that.

    Incidentally, you’re the least get-off-my-lawn blogger I’ve encountered.

  90. Matabala, what’s loony & bigoted is things in her post like “I feel like I have two worlds in my head, one in French and one in English. I feel like the English world is a lot more fun than the French one.” It’s just out to cause trouble, so don’t fall in the trap 🙂

  91. David Marjanović says:

    Good to know I’m not the youngest here at 36. 🙂

    (One of my mental ages is 8, though.)

  92. @Keith Ivey

    I was alluding to Stu Clayton’s earlier name, Grumbly Stu

    I know. (See my comment at 8:05 pm on 9 November.)

    Replying to your comment I was just adding an extra layer.

  93. Collocations are of supreme importance in deciding what speakers of a given language say. In English “excited about” etc. are standard collocations that have arisen (particularly within PR and resume speak) that we instinctively reach for, because that’s the way we say it.

    Netspeak is an online tool that allows you to look up the collocations of words. “excited about the…” yields 0.6 million examples. “Excited about the new…”, “excited about the opportunity”, “excited about the prospect”, “excited about future”, “excited about the possibilities”, “excited about the potential”, etc. come up as the top collocations, almost entirely derived from PR/resume speak.

    If there were an Italian Netspeak, I wonder what collocations would come up for emozionato. It’s these different collocational usages that can make it so hard to translate between languages. I suspect that the best translators are those with a finely tuned ear to collocations.

    Google Translate does a good job translating between European languages because collocationally they are fairly close to each other (especially sober prose style). But when Google Translate has to render the bizarre collocations of Communist-Party speak into English, it flounders pretty badly. Human translators have a pretty hard time of it, too. Mostly it comes down to “We just wouldn’t say that!”

    Incidentally, I would suggest that “Colourless green ideas sleep furiously” might conceivably have entered the list of collocationally acceptable phrases in English 🙂 (With possible implactions for Chomsky’s point).

  94. (sip) “C’est bien.” (sip) “C’est très bien.” (sip) “C’est très très bien!” (sip, sip, sip) “C’est très très très bien!”

    Stolen from the Italians, I’ll warrant

    My wife reminds me that Louis XIV once remarked that his subjects were a good people, but easily bored.

  95. Implactions indeed. Should be “implications”. In my defence, I was racing against the clock to make revisions to the comment.

    And I meant “Chinese Communist Party speak”.

    Incidentally, Netspeak also has German.

  96. Biscia: “Bathroom fixtures are not things we usually think of as “emotional” in English (or even “exciting”).”

    You need to get out more.

    “The decade marked the launch of THE BOLD LOOK OF KOHLER, an advertising campaign and array of exciting new plumbing products in vivid accent colors.”
    https://www.faucet-warehouse.com/top-sellers/kohler.html

  97. And these are some of the “10 Things the Editors Are Excited About” at New York magazine:
    -a bar of fabric wax
    -a cat toy
    -some socks
    -a t-shirt
    http://nymag.com/strategist/2018/11/editor-wishlist-november-2018.html

  98. Are the editors, perhaps, cats?

  99. J.W. Brewer says:

    Here’s an excerpt from the piece Bloix linked to, that could be a sample text for a translation contest into the various other languages alluded to upthread, to experiment with how simple v. challenging it is to capture the substance/tone/register of the English in other tongues perhaps associated with different social/cultural attitudes.

    “I almost squealed out loud when I thumbed past these sheepskin skimmers on Instagram a few weeks ago, and they just launched at Sleeper if you’re looking to splurge. They’re the most beautiful-but-still-cozy house slippers I’ve ever seen — there’s something very Celine about them.”

    Alas, I expect the reference at the end is *not* to Louis-Ferdinand Celine, although the whole thing would be more interesting if it was.

  100. January First-of-May says:

    Alas, I expect the reference at the end is *not* to Louis-Ferdinand Celine, although the whole thing would be more interesting if it was.

    I’m reminded of how the Russian translators of Pratchett’s Soul Music rendered the name Imp y Celyn as “Dion Celyn” (or, rather, the Cyrillic equivalent thereof). Dion does sound a bit like a Llamedosian first name – or at least a Welsh one, anyway…

    (Though the way they translated the book’s title itself might be better yet – Роковая музыка. The first word, presumably, is to be stressed on the initial; that’s what I do, anyway.)

  101. Given that the original name is a pun in Welsh which is subsequently translated in the text anyway, one wonders why they bothered to change it!

  102. January First-of-May says:

    Given that the original name is a pun in Welsh which is subsequently translated in the text anyway, one wonders why they bothered to change it!

    That’s true, I guess; supposedly an early Russian translation did leave it as is.

    The problem, as I understand it, is that it’s the English translation that is a pun, not the original Welsh, and of course the pun wouldn’t make (as much) sense in the Russian translation.
    So the official Russian translators left the parts that did make sense even if translated to Russian instead of English, turned the rest into an obvious gag, and had to come up with an elaborate scenario for the context of the English pun that they threw away (but, short of explicitly referring to English, they would have had to do that last one anyway).

    (On second thought, there is a minor pun in the original Welsh as well, which consequently disappeared in the Russian version; forgot what the translators did to it.)

  103. It’s never too early to get started on saving up grumbliness! I’m only 33 but have put my first deposits in already a few years ago.

    (But also, I guess hanging out in teenager-adjacent social venues will do that to anyone over 25. In fandom spaces I’ve seen more than enough 30-something people already self-identifying as “old farts” just on account of not going along with every whim and meme that rolls in; and hitting 40 pretty much suffices for qualifying as a Venerable Elder.)

  104. I have a French relation of advanced age but totally young at heart who uses ‘jouir’ with a sense close to ‘excited’ and not to ‘excité(e)’. I couldn’t use it myself (unless it was appropriate!), but simply wish to say it is used in that way by a native speaker of French.

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