10 French Words Better Left Untranslated

Syllabus Translation1. Au jus: On a menu, I recently saw the beef dip described as “with au jus,” which translates as “with with juice.” Be sure you understand what the French means before you incorporate it into your English sentence.

2. Chic: While stylish, classy, and elegant get the idea across, they’re just not quite as chic as chic.

3. Crème brûlée: Let’s face it—burnt cream is not appealing.

4. Divorcée: Divorcée sounds sexy and mysterious. “She’s divorced” sounds like a date with a bag of Doritos.

5. En brochette: “On a skewer” brings to mind dead bodies. Sorry.

6. Force majeure: A legal term that should be left as is. Swap it for “great force” and no one will know what you’re talking about!

7. Petite: Petite makes a gal feel sexy; small makes a gal feel shrimpy.

8. Pied-à-terre: Pied-à-terre spells adventure; vacation residence spells blandoid.

9. Prix fixe: If you want to sound high-class, avoid the word price at all costs!

10. RSVP: “Answer me, already!” can be a bit bossy, don’t you think!


Photo credit: Rebecca Anderson

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