French Friday: A Woman. A Jacket. Their Future.

Now that I’ve been away from France for so many years, strange things happen to me. Once in a while, here in the U.S., I doubt of myself when I read words written in my native language.

Like when I spotted joi de vivre. Is joie spelled without an E at the end?

Or when I saw Tina Fey wearing a T-shirt that read ‘La Femme Est Le Future.’ Is futur spelled with an E at the end?

For all things French I ask my husband rather than Google Translator, like my son always suggests me to do. Years abroad have neither affected my husband’s grammar nor spelling skills. His oral and written French are as impeccable as they were when we lived in Paris. He even kept his French accent 🙂

“Of course joie is spelled with an E and futur is spelled without,” he confirmed while checking his email. He also excels at multi tasking.

French spelling has never been an issue for me either. But when French words are misspelled in otherwise extraordinary books or on clothes worn by celebrities, it’s natural to hesitate.

Since the T-shirt ‘La Femme Est Le Future’ is quite popular now, in case you’d like to purchase one I’ll suggest staying away from French Connection. Despite its name, French Connection is a UK-based retailer of fashion clothing which didn’t ace the French class.

I found some T-shirts with the proper spelling here. In case you wonder, ‘La Femme Est Le Futur’ means ‘Women Are the Future.’ Interesting to note that in French the singular still implies all women, while the plural is necessary in English.

As I go on with this post I realize that I have the opportunity to elaborate just a bit about the French noun and adjective ‘futur.’

The adjective futur and the adverbial locution à venir are often synonyms. For example: le futur gouvernement or le gouvernement à venir. Both mean: the future government. Or still dans les années futures or dans les années à venir. Both mean: in the future years, in the years to come.

On the other hand, the nouns le futur and l’avenir, which both mean the future, are not synonyms.

Avenir designates a period of time that people who are alive now will know, while futur hints to a more distant future that belongs to future generations.

For the former meaning, using futur instead of avenir borrows from the English language.

In his book Le Fou d’Elsa, French poet Louis Aragon wrote: “L’avenir de l’homme est la femme” or

Women are men’s future.

That Aragon chose l’avenir instead of le futur shows his optimism regarding the upcoming important role of women in the world.

I want to be as positive as the poet, so I definitely prefer the T-shirt that proclaims ‘l’avenir est féminin’ (the future is female) to ‘la femme est le futur.’

However, I don’t really plan to buy any of these T-shirts.

Many moons ago I owned clothes printed with American words that either I didn’t understand or proved to make no sense.

UCLA, for example, didn’t ring a bell when I wore the university sweatshirt through my last year of high school, and I had no clue that the jacket I wore during my first winter in California advertised a fake New York sport team.

 

 

The UCLA sweatshirt ended its life somewhere in France, but the jacket is stored in a bin, here in the U.S., since it carries many of my early immigration memories.

I’ve always believed the man who told me cheerfully that this Brooklyn-based team my jacket promoted didn’t exist. I’m from Brooklyn, he told me. By the way I also always believed he spoke of a baseball team, until I noticed the sticks and puck when I took the picture for this blog post:)

It’s not like my future depends on it, but my avenir is not as long as it was when I wore this jacket, twenty-seven years ago.

So hockey fans, it’s your turn…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Your thoughts about language are very interesting. Sometimes, I feel also that one language takes the place of another one, depending which one I using more at the time.

    And about T-shirts… I hate wearing T-shirts I can’t understand (so I don’t). In Morocco, where I live, the “cool” language is now English, to the detriment of French. Teenagers people wears, like everywhere, mostly T-shirts with messages in English… that happily their parents can’t understand! 😀

    • I smile reading what you have to say about the T-shirts you see in Morocco since I feel the same way when I am in France too.
      And here, well, you see how it is 🙂
      Thank you so much for stopping by and spending the time to read me and comment.

  2. hilarymb says:

    Hi Evelyn – interesting to read and get some critiques of French phrases. I’m glad it happens in French too … English is being messed up rather too much … Funny about your entry to the country and the chap from Brooklyn … ah well – enjoy whichever sports you support today – no doubt with the right logo. Cheers Hilary

  3. Haaaa je comprends que ça peut être “confusing”!! Pour ma part j’ai entendu une fois une chanson d’Usher où une fille disait “tu es mon star” c’était bien essayé de l’accorder car Usher est un homme mais malheureusement on dit toujours UNE star en français, homme ou femme ^^ ça m’avait fait sourire (c’était supposé être chanté par une “french lady”)

    • Trop drôle!
      Il est vrai que la langue française est difficile, donc sera compréhensif 🙂
      Et parfois ça fait sourire et donne des idées pour des billets de blog.
      Merci en tous cas pour votre visite et votre commentaire.

  4. The team could have been a local sports team who just decided to have jackets made. Maybe they just made extras. It would be my luck to wear a shirt with a language in a foreign language that meant something totally different than what I imagined. I’ll stick to the language I barely understand 😉

    I do like reading about the subtle nuances of French. It seems to me that it would be a harder language to master, but maybe not.

    • Years later, I considered a local team, too, when I saw that schools, churches, and many other entities created T-shirts for a special event or a cause.
      It’s often a good idea to stick to what we undertand, for clothes and for bags too. I wore once a backpack that my husband received at a high tech venue in the 1990s. In the mid 2000s I was hiking in Yosemite when a group of men of my age started to talk to me, certain that I had been to that event too. I had no idea what they were talking about and admitted that I had only borrowed the bag. We all laughed and they urged me to keep the bag since it was a vintage piece, covered with a mix of famous companies but also companies that mattered once and sounded familiar to people who had lived the early days of the high tech boom.
      I’m glad you’re enjoying my posts about my native language, Dan. It’s not an easy one to master, but English is tricky too, moreover since it appears easier than it is. Whenever I read a gorgeously written book I realize how challenging it is to come up with exceptional sentences in English.
      Thank you for another kind visit, Dan.

      • I smiled about the backpack story. I have a bunch of bags from those events and I recognize them when others carry them.

        Since I’ve been trying to write, I’ve been eager to get better with grammar. English isn’t easy to master, even for those of us who were born here. The only language I studied in school was German. I do prefer English to that one.

      • I have a bunch of T-shirts too. But all are too big, so I don’t risk bumping into people testing my knowledge 🙂
        I studied German more than English, back in France and came to regret my choice 🙂

      • I still like some of the tee shirts I collected, and two vests 🙂 – nothing says geek like wearing a vest that says OOPSLA – but I love wearing it.

  5. That’s funny about the jacket. Plenty of American retailers sell clothes with imaginary teams and numbers and years on them. My kids have gobs of them. They’re seemingly always Californian cities, except when they’re lacrosse, then they go northeast. Twice the shirts have had elders asking. Your jacket could have been real, just some obscure team not a lot of people know about, like a neighborhood or community league, or just some made up jacket to make you look cool 🙂
    I actually did Google the future vs futur thing when I saw it advertised on Facebook. It looked odd. But I can’t trust my brain with French. I was right though, and I think my French teacher smiled down from heaven about it.

  6. Actually, you could say “Woman is the future.” Using “woman” as a collective noun the same way we use “man.”

  7. Behind the Story says:

    Sorry, I’m not a hockey fan, but that’s a fascinating question. I love that French has two words for future. I wish we did.

    I use the thesaurus a fair amount. (Do you?) I’m often surprised at how many synonyms there are for some words and how few for others. Also it surprises me that I can look through a whole page of synonyms and not find a single one that says what I want to say. Of course, then I decide not to say that thing anyway, at least not in that way. (Am I making sense?)

  8. Thank you for explaining the difference between le futur and l’avenir! This is definitely a distinction we could use in English, where “the future” seems often to be a distant day of reckoning that will never come. I also wish I could pick your husband’s brain while I’m editing. 🙂 Instead I have to content myself with Google Translate and the Oxford Online Dictionaries (which include both French and French-English).

    And on that pesky “e” — just yesterday I couldn’t remember if it was “smooth” or “smoothe” and had to look it up. (It’s the former. This is not the first time I’ve looked that one up!)

    • In a way I’m glad to read that a professional editor knows her moments of doubt too:)
      I often pick my husband’s brain and forgot to mention that more often even when dealing with numbers. I’m terrible with them!
      Thank you for your visit, Susanna.

  9. Love the way you followed this thread, Evelyne… I also have to admit that my T-shirt shopping consists of riffling through the rack looking for one without any words or slogans and rarely finding a lovely plain anonymous T-shirt sans everything !!!

  10. le post et les photos m’ont rappelé la célèbre affirmation de Louis Aragon, mise en chanson par Jean Ferrat:”la femme est l’avenir de l’homme…” 🙂

    • Absolument! Je n’ai pas voulu rentrer dans les détails, mais Ferrat a en effet juste changé l’ordre des mots écrits par Aragon, pour les besoins de sa superbe chanson. À plus, Mélanie et merci.

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