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felis_ultharus shines again, on the Oddness Of Language
shadowkittykat_ wrote in metaquotes
Every language has some ridiculousness. Like how in English, we "go to the bathroom" in the middle of a desert -- as though English-speakers were all so proper, we can conjure cubicles complete with plumbing in the least likely of circumstances.

In French, though, my favourite category of bizarre are "words for ordinary things that seem to belong more properly to an HP Lovecraft story." Like "mal de mer" ("seasickness," but literally "sea evil"), "fenêtre de guillotine" ("sash window" but actually "guillotine window"), and "nécrologie" ("obituary" but literally "word of the dead").

Of all these, the winner, hands down, is "abat-jour" -- "lampshade."

The "abat" part is from "abattre" -- which once meant "to throw down" but generally means "to slaughter." This is the "abattre" from "abattoir" -- "slaughterhouse."

"Jour" meanwhile, means day, but poetically "daylight" or "dawn." The sense was probably originally "throws down the light" but it now reads more like "That-Which-Slaughters-Daylight."

I picture "That-Which-Slaughters-Daylight" as a twenty-foot-tall hulking demon, horned, bearing a scythe, that could only be summoned at a crossroads on a new moon, with just the right ritual from the Nécrologie. It would also be wearing a lampshade, to remind itself of its humble origins, but it would be a very scary lampshade. Probably something with skulls on it.

Context thinks the Colour of the Lampshade will be from Out Of Time. (QWP)

It is pretty well documented that the ghoul and murderer Ed Gein made lampshades of human skin from corpses whose graves he had violated--"abat-jour", indeed!

um. wow. eek! Now I'm trying to decide if this is more or less icky than the Red Asphalt movies back in Drivers Dread. Hmm... Skin lapshades v. brains being picked up off the roadway. I'll be over here, in the corner, puking now. While admiring your bevy of odd knowledge.

I suppose if you think logically a lampshade does slaughter light by dimming it, and if you get the right bulb it's daylight... so it does make sense in a are-you-on-crack kind of way.

But oh my god, I forgot how much fun French is. Hee. 'abat-jour' is so much more fun sounding than 'lampshade'; vaguely demonic sounding origins aside.

I love the weirdness of French. Like "pomme de terre," as if potatoes bore any resemblance to apples whatsoever.

And pineapples do? ;-)In Sweden, we have "apelsin" - Chinese apple - for orange. I suspect whenever anyone brought a new food item, people would go, "WTF is this? I'm not eating this! Is it... what is it?" and the exasperated traveller would go, "It's like an apple, OKAY?"

Honestly, "sea evil" makes me think of the Jaws theme.
Still, how about translating it as "sea pain"?

I think you can also loosely translate it as "sea bad" which makes me think of something like StrongBad's oceanic cousin or something.

The only way to kill it is to decapitate it with a fenêtre de guillotine. It can only go on land, because its greatest enemy is Mal de Mer.

Who's a pretty lampshade?

You are! Yes you are! You're my insy-winsy-woowoo. :)

"To go" is an act. Going to the bathroom implies an act one is doing, not the literal act of finding a spot to do it in.

So, it's not weird at all.

Also, "mal" in French is "bad". So it's literally "bad sea", not evil. Which gives more context of the meaning.

EEK my inner polyglot is rejoicing at this entry. *<3s languages*


My own personal Language quirck right now is the Chinese word for Lobster, "Long xia" - literally, Dragon Shrimp.

{is suddenly very happy the condo has sufficient overhead lighting not to have to worry about summoning That-Which-Slaughters-Daylight with floorlamps...}

I always liked the word for snowman - le bonhomme de neige. Here in America, we get "snowman." Over in France, they get "The Gentleman of Snow." So classy!

Abattoir: slaughterhouse.

"The cow was slaughtered in the abattoir."

(okay now: who gets the reference?)

Edit: oops. *spells it correctly*

Edited at 2008-02-01 04:47 pm (UTC)

The only abattoir I can think of off the top of my head is Monty Python's architect sketch, but I don't think that's it. o.O

I think my all-time favourite is the German word for 'turtle', which translates back to English as 'shielded frog'. (Though the Chinese 'dragon shrimp' from sabrina_il's comment is now fighting for top spot.)

Hahaha, so glad I could help!

um, so what's that German word then? :D

(I haven't had a chance to geek out on languages to this degree in a LONG time...)

I love these! Japanese has a lot of words like that, too. My favorite is "meyaki" for fried eggs -- literally, "fried eyeballs."

So. Damn. Awesome. :D