mardi 29 décembre 2015

Now I lay me down to sleep.....

Grammar 101: to lie is an intransitive verb - i.e. it doesn't take a direct object - "lay" is the past of this verb.
To lay is a transitive verb which means it requires a direct object: its past and past participle are both "laid".
What brought this on, do you ask? The sight of a printed notice which failed to differentiate between the two: unfortunately I didn't have a black marker pen to hand, so I took a photo instead.
Exhibit A

and Exhibit B: what is actually being forbidden, if you take the sign literally.

samedi 26 décembre 2015

Instructions: clear as mud

I had a new dress for Christmas: I ordered it online at it came by post. When I unpacked it there was a little note saying that it would need to be pressed before I wore it. There was also a helpful (not) translation of this information into French - which told me that it would have "besoin pressant" before being worn....... this is a French expression which means an urgent need for the toilet. Woops!
Moving along swiftly, Santa brought me a cute novelty salt and pepper set. The pieces had to be taken apart to be filled and then pushed firmly back together before use - to avoid getting the entire contents dumped on your turkey. Unfortunately the instructions had been translated from Chinese (or similar) and  in fact said the very opposite: "hardly push" as opposed to "push hard". I know that hardly looks as if it should be the adverb formed from the adjective hard, but of course it isn't. In French hardly is à peine.

vendredi 18 décembre 2015

Wishing you a very Dictionary Christmas

My pupils have been hard at work on Christmas traditions from around the world: amongst the many gems we have learned about calendars and candles "of the front": this is an epic fail caused by a spelling mistake in the original French - Advent is "l'Avent" NOT "l'Avant"!
Apparently every house in  Germany  has "stares" (rather than stars) as Christmas decorations and  in Canada they have Christmas "day nurseries" : nativity cribs - in French it's the same word: "une crèche".  Swedes, I am reliably informed, send "maps" to family and friends - rather than the more traditional Christams cards.
However, the most suprising discovery was that Americans decorate the outside of their houses with garlands and bollocks. I wonder whose?