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


  1. Yes, I agree U is a challenging letter! And it’s goes downhill from there this week…

    • Ha ha! That’s an encouragement that I appreciate. In fact I’m a little in trouble for X and Y. I still hope to find something…
      Nice to see you again.

  2. Challenging, these last few letters! I had to fudge a little bit to work them out 🙂 U is really hard! As for “upgrade” I don’t think I’d use it for a promotion, but yes for an airplane seat or hotel room, any product that is “the next one better” and of course computers. I’ve never heard it used for an “upgrade” portion of a trail. I’ve heard “steep uphill grade” but not “Steep upgrade.” Good luck with the final week! It’s almost finished! 🙂

    • It is indeed almost finished. Agree with your feedback. I haven’t myself used ‘upgrade’ for a hill, but all dictionaries give this meaning, so, I ws interested to receive opinions. Thank you and good luck to you for the last five letters.

  3. I probably wouldn’t use it for steep hill, but definitely for a better airline seat or hotel room.

    • I thought it was interesting to notice that in French it is okay to upgrade someone while in English we only upgrade things. Thank you, Tamara for stopping by.

  4. c’est bien une déformation du langage informatique , car le terme upgrade vient bien des évolutions des OS type Windows Mac, etc… qui s’est reporté sur notre langage courant, les plus jeunes dialoguant sur les réseaux sociaux et étant adeptes des update ou upgrade informatique se sont vite pris au jeu de la mise à jour de leur statut social, personnel 🙂 Dans le langage du jeu vidéo ou du jeu de rôle d’upgrader son personnage est langage courant depuis longtemps, ainsi le personnage s’est amélioré et devient plus fort avant de continuer son aventure et son combat. Bravo pour ce bel exemple 🙂

    • Contente de lire l’avis d’un français. Vous avez raison sur tous les points. Je trouve passionnant d’observer et de vivre l’évolution d’une langue. Merci pour votre visite.

  5. Good post … and now I know ‘upgrader’. It’s the same problem in Italian with words in English being used for technology and business management. Generally, the only thing that’s Italianized is the pronunciation. : ) Love the photo of you and your son on the hiking trails of Yosemite.

    • I was wondering how other languages were dealing with these changes. I’d love to hear it in Italian, a language I find very musical. Thanks for the nice words on the photo. I have tons taken in Yosemite.

  6. I work in software so I relate upgrade with moving to the latest version. I can see where the influx of tech terms would be challenging to translate to other languages. Interesting post!

  7. Most terms are not translated but I like it when the French found a way to make them look a little bit more French. Thank you for stopping by.

  8. Interesting post, I really hadn’t thought about new words/usage from technology being translated into other languages, will now be wondering about other words all day.

    I grew up in Wales (in the UK) and some of the translations of modern words was more funny than anything, the Welsh comedian Rhod Gilbert did quite a funny stand up piece on the subject.

    Mars xx
    @TrollbeadBlog from
    Curling Stones for Lego People

    • Thank you, Mars, for stopping by and adding this comment. Languages have always interested me, but it is true that moving away from my native France has opened my eyes and mind in a whole different ways. I also like how each state in the US has its own expressions and accents, of course. I’ll look up this Welsh comedian. Hope to understand, though!

  9. It’s fascinating to see how the meaning of the word can evolve depending on the context it is used it. As to the challenge, it’s not long now. Early in the challenge, I got a useful comment about challenging letters: ‘get creative’. So that’s what I’m doing with letter X 😀 Have a great day, Evelyne.

    • Thanks, Gulara. When I did the challenge last year, I thought ‘never again.’ And yet, I got this idea and thought, ‘Why not?” So who knows for next year…
      In any case I’ve enjoyed searching for words. And I appreciate the support I’ve received. Good luck to you too. See you tomorrow.

      • I know how you felt, Evelyne, even though I’m saying to myself ‘never again’, I have a niggling feeling that come next April, I’ll have an excuse to have another ride 🙂

  10. I love the way you upgrade – by hiking up a grade! That’s the way I like to upgrade, too.

  11. I use the word upgrade for software, for buying a new computer and even buying a new car. In fact, reading this post made me aware of how often I use the word for different things.

    Visiting from the A to Z Blog Challenge.

    Patricia @ EverythingMustChange

  12. Thanks, Patricia, for stopping by. Yes, we use this word a lot and beyond softwares. In the States most of us like any form of upgrade, don’t we?

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