Why I’m Blaming The Académie Française For My Bad Translation

So today I need to write my first retraction, in relation to yesterday’s post, 30 Minutes In Ruyaulcourt.

In that post I said that the translation of the text on a war monument was “The commune of Ruyaulcourt has their glorious children”.

The translation should have been “The commune of Ruyaulcourt, TO their glorious children.”

After I posted the article, my wife let me know I got the translation wrong. In my defense, I want to explain why I got it wrong.

If you look at the monument, you’ll notice the word ‘A’ has no accent. This is because the Académie Française decided some time ago that when you’re writing French in uppercase like this, you can omit the accents without considering the words misspelled.

Unfortunately, omitting the accent on à (to) changes it to a (3rd-person singular of avoir; ‘to have’; he/she/it has), a verb which coincidentally agrees with the subject.

So once again, the CORRECT translation:  “The commune of Ruyaulcourt, TO their glorious children.”

As in, a gift given in honor of their ‘glorious children’.

</retraction>

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7 thoughts on “Why I’m Blaming The Académie Française For My Bad Translation

  1. It’s the “glorious children” part that I love. What a great phrase. It speaks of honor, pride, sadness, and remembrance. Beautiful.

  2. Funny you would mention this, the Académie Française has been doing some very strange things lately. Did you know that “verlan” words like “meuf” and “teuf” have been added to the dictionary? They started out as teenager slang (actually, they pretty much still are–my teenage cousins use these words when they chat with me) … it’s kind of like putting “dude” and “chick” in the American dictionary for “guy” and “girl”

    • Anne-Sophie, I didn’t see that, but I heard that some text message speak (e.g. lol) made it in. I haven’t verified that though but, since Armand has provided the link to the newest edition, I’ll check next time I’m on a computer instead of a phone.

  3. @ Don: I don’t know where you got the idea that the Académie française said one can omit the accents on uppercase . Actually, it’s quite the contrary:

    “Il convient cependant d’observer qu’en français, l’accent a pleine valeur orthographique. Son absence ralentit la lecture, fait hésiter sur la prononciation, et peut même induire en erreur. Il en va de même pour le tréma et la cédille.

    On veille donc, en bonne typographie, à utiliser systématiquement les capitales accentuées, y compris la préposition À, comme le font bien sûr tous les dictionnaires, à commencer par le Dictionnaire de l’Académie française, ou les grammaires, comme Le Bon Usage de Grevisse, mais aussi l’Imprimerie nationale, la Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, etc. Quant aux textes manuscrits ou dactylographiés, il est évident que leurs auteurs, dans un souci de clarté et de correction, auraient tout intérêt à suivre également cette règle.”

    If you want to know more, please read http://www.academie-francaise.fr/langue/questions.html#accentuation.

    You can also write to the Académie in case you have any question reagarding the French language: contact@academie-francaise.fr.

    @ Anne-Sophie : “verlan” has not been added to the Dictionnaire de l’Académie française, 9e édition (the current one) for the simple reason that the Dictionnaire is still at the letter Q (Quadrivium). Here is a link: http://atilf.atilf.fr/academie9.htm (you can also use http://www.cnrtl.fr/definition/academie9/).

    • Armand, my information was second hand – didn’t occur to me that they’d have a website for me to check. Thanks for helping me find that.

      It appears you’re right and I can’t blame them, but now I’m curious where this habit of unaccented capitals came from.

      However, now I have more ground to stand on in saying my original translation wasn’t incorrect. 🙂

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