All These Little French and American Words…



Welcome to the last week of the A to Z Challenge!

This last stretch toward the letter Z is more challenging and I hope you’ll bear with me.

One word for the letter U

* One English verb and noun with similar meanings in France and in the USA and a couple of exceptions.



Since the phenomenal explosion in the high tech industry happened in the USA, it is sometimes difficult, even awkward, to translate the vocabulary related to computers, the Internet, and more recently social media in other languages.

French is no exception.

Since the early -00’s, countless American English words, phrases and expressions, originally related to the high tech business started to be used on a daily basis in France. Dictionaries have been updated to show these changes.

Upgrade is one of these words.


Typically, the ending –ER is added to an English verb, giving it a more French appearance.

In this manner, the verb ‘to upgrade’ is ‘upgrader’ in French.

The meanings of the verb are the same in French and in English: improve, increase, or modernize.

However, upgrade is also used in France to describe someone’s promotion.

For examples:

“I’ve been upgraded to manager.”

“On her flight to Dallas, she has been upgraded to business class.”

“The hotel upgraded us to a suite.”

Recently, I was reading a story written in English and set in a contemporary American urban area. One of the characters was complimenting his buddy on his new girlfriend and said, “I see you’ve received a girlfriend update.”

In this specific situation, I undestood that ‘upgrade’ was used to describe an improvement related to a person, made in comparison to a previous person and to mock that person.

Upgrade as a noun has the same meanings of improvement and modernization in the USA and France. However, it isn’t used in France to describe an upward grade or uphill slope.

So, my American friends, how do you use ‘upgrade?”




My son and I on a steep upgrade section of the trail leading to the top of Clouds Rest, in Yosemite National Park.

Aux Etats Unis comme en France, ‘upgrade’ utilisé en tant que verbe signifie améliorer, augmenter, moderniser…

En tant que nom, ‘upgrade’ aux Etats Unis décrit une pente ou piste ascendante et traduit tout comme en France le sens d’amélioration, d’augmentation, de modernisation, particulièrement dans le milieu high tech et business en général.

Par contre l’utilisation de ‘upgrade’ pour décrire la promotion de quelqu’un est incorrecte en anglais. Aux USA on upgrade une chambre d’hôtel, une place sur un vol (avion), mais pas une personne.

Utiliser ‘upgrade’ pour une personne est alors péjoratif puisqu’il y a une référence à la personne précédente.

Par exemple : Je vois que tu as reçu une upgrade côté petite amie.

Sous-entendu, celle d’avant n’était pas terrible, ou en tous cas, celle ci est mieux.

Alors, mes amies et amis français, dites-moi, utilisez-vous le verbe et le nom upgrade dans d’autres contextes?


Do you know of a French or English word starting with the letter U 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 U qui a un sens différent selon qu’il soit utilisé en France ou aux Etats Unis?


See you tomorrow with the letter V

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