All These Little French and American Words…


Welcome to the A to Z Challenge!

Three words for the letter

*Two English words with different meanings whether they are used in France or in the USA

*One French word with some similar and some different meanings whether the word is used in France or in the USA



Slip in France designates a man’s brief and also a woman’s panties, although the most common term for women’s underwear is ‘culotte’ and often ‘petite culotte.’ After all don’t we all know that every cute thing is small?

L’équivalent du slip français se dit “brief” pour les hommes et “panties” pour les femmes. Les caleçons s’appellent des “boxers” et of course il y a toutes sortes de petites culottes… Les sous-vêtements en général sont des “underwear.”

Mais un slip aux USA c’est aussi:

*une combinaison féminine qui se porte sous une robe.

*un document écrit qu’une école envoie à la maison pour qu’un parent le signe, autorisant ainsi un voyage scolaire ou déplacement académique ou sportif, par exemple, d’un enfant mineur sous la supervision de l’école. On appelle ce document un permission slip.

*une erreur, un oubli, une chute ou encore dans certains cas un reçu.

*to slip se traduit entre autres par glisser ou enfiler.

Ce qui explique le choix du mot slip pour désigner un certain type de sous-vêtements français.


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In France a tuxedo is called a smoking, from the “Smoking Jacket.” Once, I told my preschooler daughter’s teacher that I loved seeing a man in a smoking. That’s how I learned how to say tuxedo.

Le smoking est un tuxedo ou tux pour les américains, alors que smoking se réfère à l’acte de fumer et par extension à quelques autres expressions dérivées, mais jamais à l’ensemble pantalon veste élégant.



This noun of French origin has several meanings in France and the USA.

Two are common to the two countries :

*the image of a person or an object consisting of the outline with the silhouetted object most often being black.

*the dark shape and outline of someone or something visible against a lighter background, especially in dim light.

Three meanings are different :

*In France a silhouette is the equivalent of “figure.”  It will be used to describe the figure of both men and women, unlike in the USA where ‘figure’ is almost always used to describe the bodily shape of a woman.

*In the USA, a silhouette is also the overall outline of a garment in the fashion industry.

*In the USA, silhouette is also a verb that means to outline, to define.

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Ce nom d’origine française a plusieurs sens en France et aux Etats Unis.

Deux sont communs aux deux pays :

*L’image d’une personne ou d’un objet découpé sur un fonds, le plus souvent noir.

*La forme sombre d’une personne ou d’un objet visible contre un fonds plus clair, particulièrement sous un éclairage tamisé.

Le mot silhouette est aussi utilisé dans les contextes suivants:

*En France, pour décrire l’apparence physique d’une personne. Par exemple : Une silhouette élégante. Aux Etats Unis le mot ‘figure’ sera dans ce cas utilisé, principalement pour décrire la silhouette d’une femme. On dira par exemple : Katie has a great figure.

*Silhouette aux Etats Unis est aussi utilisé dans le monde de la couture pour désigner le contour simple d’un vêtement.

*Finalement le nom silhouette peut aussi être un verbe aux Etats Unis. Il se se traduit souvent par (se) dessiner en français. Par exemple: “Les ruines du chateau se dessinaient contre le ciel,” deviendra en anglais: ” The ruins of the castle were silhouetted against the sky.”



Do you know of a French or English word starting with the letter S that has a different meaning whether it’s used in France or the USA?

Connaissez-vous un mot français ou anglais commençant par la lettre S qui a un sens différent selon qu’il soit utilisé en France ou aux Etats Unis?


See you tomorrow with the letter T


  1. Mostly, I think of silhouette as a black shape of the thing without detail. At least, that’s what it is in photography. I bet this is one of those words that has a LOT of meanings, depending on its context.

    • When I started to list the words starting with an A I didn’t think of silhouette. When I did the list of meanings kept going…
      BTW it’s also one of these words that caught me off guard when I used ‘silhouette’ instead of ‘figure.’
      See you, Marilyn.

  2. “A man in a smoking” would have been misunderstood in the 60s, but probably with a different response (since that’s when we still thought it made us look better).

    • Ha ha! It suprised me when I learned that ‘smoking’ was not the elegant apparel that I liked. I still like it even though I know call it a ‘tuxedo.’
      Thank you for reading and supporting my challenge. Almost there!

  3. There was a time when slips were always warn under dresses to reduce the see-through factor. Don’t think they are as common anymore. (But then, what would I know? :)) Then there is slip to fall down, and slip up to make a mistake. I wonder if the latter came from a slip riding high and not doing its job… –Curt

    • When I listed the words I intended to use for each letter of the alphabet I knew Slip would be one of them. It did suprised me when I started to shop to find out that men’s underwear were called “briefs’ since I knew the word ‘briefcase.’
      Years later, I know of many more meanings, but once in a while, I still find a new word or phrase that proves to me that languages are rich and complex. The English language is particularly rich in comparison to most. One simple word, such as ‘slip’ exemplifies this bounty. Thakn you, Curt, for supporting me as I travel from letter A to Z.

  4. Fascinating! ‘S’ is very rich, isn’t it. I was spoilt for choice for that letter too. This post like three in one, Evelyne.

  5. Right, Gulara! Some letters are definitely easier. Any idea for letters X and Y by any chance? Are these hard for you as well? Thank you again for stopping by.

  6. I had no idea about all the meanings of the word slip in the USA. I had figured out that a tuxedo is some sort of a suit, but I did’t know that it’s a smoking. The common meaning of silhouette is the same in German, nevertheless I prefer the German word „Scherenschnitt“ (scissor-cut).
    Thanks for this informative S-Day-Post.

  7. Slip has so many meanings, here in the US. I love American English because we can say so much with so few words.
    Tuxedo is a strange word, I agree. Tux, for short, works as well.
    In fact the word ‘cut-out’ exists also in the US and can be used for the silhouettes made out of cardboard.
    Thank you for stopping by again.

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