petite anglaise

February 6, 2007

gros mot

Filed under: Uncategorized — petiteanglaiseparis @ 11:07 am

It recently came to my attention that a fantasy swear word coined, I believe, by my very good friend in blogging Anna Boat may soon be the subject of a heated debate chez les Prud’hommes.

A comment I took the precaution of removing from my site some time ago has seemingly found its way into the possession of a certified translator, for use in my industrial tribunal case (which theoretically takes place this month, if no-one defers it).

It went something like this:

petite: “I’m thinking of setting up a parallel secret blog named “my boss is a twunt”.

Hmm. Clearly a tongue in cheek play on words which any self-respecting blogger/blogreader would understand as a reference to the famous zed and her award winning blog, no doubt a quip made in response to another comment, although I no longer have the faintest idea of the exact context.

The problem being that the French translator, clearly coming a little unstuck at the sight of the inventive slight, an amalgamation of two words of differing intensity which share etymological origins with the word “ladyparts”, decided to opt for the rather stronger French expletive “enculé” in the version to which he/she put the holy certified translator’s stamp. Unfortunate in the extreme, as “enculé” is a word which has nothing whatsoever to do with “ladyparts”, is the strongest French swearword I know of, and is emphatically not a word I would ever dream of sullying my fair lips with. I think it is fair to say that many layers of intended humour and irony have been well and truly lost in translation.

The upside of all this (aside from the fact that my audience is likely to be interesting for those involved, and indeed for spectators) is that surely it can only be a matter of time before the Académie Française falls in love with the neologism and deems it necessary to add “twunt” to the official French dictionary.

Now there’s an achievement of which I would be truly proud.


  1. I should point out that it is arguably a good thing that I wasn’t reading gawker at the time, and therefore did not use their favourite word: “twatwaffle“.

    My most sincere apologies to anyone who gets into trouble with their network administrator today as a consequence of this post.

    Comment by petite — February 6, 2007 @ 11:09 am

  2. Hahaha, that’s brilliant!

    I’ve never seen enculé written down before. I always thought it was “en coulé” and assumed there was some verb, couler, which meant something rude.

    Comment by Clare — February 6, 2007 @ 11:10 am

  3. Ooh, I’m the first commenter (sort of – sorry Petite, but you don’t count).

    [shines chufty badge]

    Comment by Clare — February 6, 2007 @ 11:11 am

  4. Petite, I have the feeling you won’t get your chance to explain some basics of intertextuality and wordformation to those honourable people up there – a pity. They could use the knowledge in the future, especially translators. Still, having probably launched a new word into French (English?) – priceless, non? :-)

    Comment by alcessa — February 6, 2007 @ 11:18 am

  5. At the risk of thoroughly hogging your comments box…

    This has just reminded me of a friend of mine who worked for the MOD (British Ministry of Defence). He was in the habit of getting Very Stoned Indeed after work every night. On one occasion he decided to write a letter to a colleague and fellow recreational drug user, and the only paper he had to hand was MOD headed paper.

    His friend was on holiday in Thailand, and the letter got well and truly lost along the way, finally finding its way to the desk of a high-up MOD bod named Mr Billington.

    In the letter, my friend made a joke about “spiking Mr Billington,” who was their boss. For those not familiar with this particular idiom, he meant that they might slip some LSD into Mr Billington’s tea. But he didn’t mean it. It was a joke.

    The next thing he knew about it was when he was hauled up into a meeting with Mr Billington and several dark-suited dark-glassed MI5 types who wanted to know about his plans to murder Mr Billington by sticking a spike in his head.

    The worst of it being that he couldn’t easily explain what he really meant without getting into a whole new load of hot water…

    He never committed anything to paper ever again.

    Comment by Clare — February 6, 2007 @ 11:19 am

  6. Petite, You are entering that territory where many fear to tread, the legal minefield. It is populated by gargoyles who know the secret signs, the hidden traps, who hold the most unconscionable weapons, and will sell their grandmothers for advantage.
    There are some nice gargoyles in the legal swamp, but you won’t meet them while you are in litigation. So, if at any time you put chewing gum under your desk, spat a sour lolly into a garden, or stole a cake from the Christmas table before it was served, the gargoyles will paint you as the most evil beast ever.
    In defence, you must always imagine that as gargoyles, they are less than you. You must get your plan together and fight them. Never let them paint you as evil, the whole world now knows you are not, and you take strength from this, girl.
    We are waiting eagerly for them to fail in the face of a fair go. ;-)

    Comment by PeterG — February 6, 2007 @ 11:23 am

  7. I’m amazed they managed to translate a word that couldn’t be found in any dictionary and to choose the worst alternative says something about the translater’s mind – or else who is pulling their strings/paying their bill.
    You should surely have a chance to explain what you really meant when the time comes.
    Fingers crossed for you. Bon courage!

    Comment by sablonneuse — February 6, 2007 @ 11:45 am

  8. I’m sure I coined it, poppet.

    I just USE it a fuckbunch.

    Comment by anna — February 6, 2007 @ 1:17 pm

  9. Hi Petite, you might not remember me but we worked together several years ago in a Very Reputable Banking Institution when blogging was a word which might have been mistaken for twunt (or the verbal derivation). Just wanted to say that despite the hot water they are boiling for you, your cranky former employers are probably thanking you every day for giving them something funner to do (though certainly less lucrative) than what they usually do, and are getting virtually free advertizing to boot. I assume you are having more fun too. It’s Win-Win!
    Cordialement et bonne continuation.

    Comment by Cindy — February 6, 2007 @ 1:19 pm

  10. As a person who occasionally dabbles in translation, I can see how the word ‘twunt’ would pose a number of problems for this particular translator. The problem is that the translation must read like a French text.

    In the case of the blog title, although an insulting word, it comes across as an affectionate term (my Yorkshire girlfriend frequently calls me a ‘twat-face’, although she actually probably means it – I am consulting my lawyer on this matter).

    The word coined by Anna though is obviously intended to be c***, the twat bit only comes into it so that the pun works, so if the translator understands these nuances, he/she may be intitled to translate it as a French equivalent of c*** and insert a translator’s note explaining the various subtleties involved.

    Comment by Marcos — February 6, 2007 @ 1:24 pm

  11. If I dare say I had …to dig in (a slang dictionary) to understand the contraction.

    Comment by Saluki — February 6, 2007 @ 2:29 pm

  12. Your ex-boss was a bit of a prock. I think the tribunal will understand

    Comment by Misplaced — February 6, 2007 @ 3:12 pm

  13. Maybe you can object to the translator’s translation on the grounds that twunt is not in the Oxford English Dictionary – and thus should be treated as untranslatable, and rendered as twunt in the translation.

    Good luck.

    I have a vision of a bunch of bloggers sitting there in the gallery to support you. For some reason my minds eye has put us brightly coloured clothing with amusing head-dresses and hats – such as Dr Seuss may invent.

    – Oh has Tadpole discovered Seuss yet. I can’t wait. –

    Unfortunately bloggers don’t look like that, so you may have to hire an innovative street theatre troup to be blogger substitutes.

    Comment by Damian — February 6, 2007 @ 3:15 pm

  14. Entering into the spirit of oven-cleaning procrastination, I tried coming up with a better alternative in French, but it’s pretty hard to do if you want to keep the “ladyparts” theme and avoid out-and-out swear-words. Conculé was the best I could come up with…

    Comment by Iain — February 6, 2007 @ 3:37 pm

  15. What you need is another translator to come up with a translation of your expression “twunt” (with a definition closer to your own). Then when you get to the hearing before those wonderful people you can witness to “experts” battle it out to jusitfy their translation. It may sound dull at first, but you will get the last laugh as you witness the complex process they go through to justify themselves.

    Now that will be fun!


    Comment by rohan — February 6, 2007 @ 4:01 pm

  16. Not that I feel obliged to jump to the defense of a colleague, but I can actually understand the translator’s choice. I think you’ll agree that the C word is possibly the worstest ever swear word in the English language, and so in that respect, “enculé” wasn’t such a bad choice, as it is just as offensive. Obviously, the funny side of the made-up insult is lost, which is a real shame, and I might waste some time trying to come up with an equally tasty word this afternoon…

    Comment by céline — February 6, 2007 @ 4:37 pm

  17. Hmmm sometimes I get the feeling these snips are not entirely aimed at us! ;-)

    I empathise and I hope as soon as all the stupid trivial legalese is over and you’re done with this annoyance you can be free.

    Comment by fj — February 6, 2007 @ 4:39 pm

  18. Conatte perhaps? Anyway twunt is semi-official in a purely urban way –

    Comment by Fibsor — February 6, 2007 @ 5:00 pm

  19. Haha, I don’t think I’ve ever heard the word “twunt”. Don’t know what it means, but it sounds bad.

    Comment by I Want My 2 Brothers Back — February 6, 2007 @ 5:34 pm

  20. Petite.

    Is the word in the Oxford English Dictionary?
    Then the translation is inaccurate and thus unreliable.

    Hold that up your sleeve and use it accordingly to discedit the translator should you need it.

    Comment by Billyboy — February 6, 2007 @ 5:40 pm

  21. Petite,
    As a full-time professional French to English translator, I would regard it as extremely unprofessional to make up a word in my own language to translate one that I couldn’t find used elsewhere than in the text I was translating, if I didn’t include a footnote (referencing relevant websites), no matter how po-faced the process looks. How else do you let your client know what the original language said, and allow them to understand the context, nuances etc. etc.? And this is doubly important when that made-up word is very relevant to what they’ll be trying to prove about your attitude to your bosses (though having read your blog pretty well from the time you started, I really can’t see what they were objecting to – you hardly mentioned your work. Even in the comments).

    I work for a lot of French clients, and one of the worst problems is convincing them that sometimes there simply is no English translation of a word or phrase, and that a workaround and/or explanation is the only possible solution.

    Incidentally, it might be worth checking the wording of the certification – over here we tend to certify a translation is accurate “to the best of my ability”, but I think the French system may be more prescriptive and assumes omniscience (and, where necessary, some sense of humour) on the part of the translator.

    Hey, does this mean there’s a version of your blog already translated into French out there? What a teaching aid for teachers of French over here …!

    Comment by Pippa — February 6, 2007 @ 6:25 pm

  22. ‘fraid not Pippa, just selective snippets have been translated, to my knowledge.

    Comment by petite — February 6, 2007 @ 6:28 pm

  23. Académie Française? You’d really be(in)famous then, petite. ;-)

    Comment by Anna — February 6, 2007 @ 6:32 pm

  24. How about: mon chef, il est un concoulé??

    I very much enjoy your blog, thank you.

    Best wishes.

    Comment by LKH — February 6, 2007 @ 6:34 pm

  25. Oops, just seen 14! Sorry Iain.

    Comment by LKH — February 6, 2007 @ 6:36 pm

  26. Well a quick google search finds

    “Noun, Singular twunt, Plural twunts

    (UK coarse pejorative slang) A fool”

    So you could always suggest that the certified translator is a bit of a twunt for not knowing that either.

    Comment by Thomas R — February 6, 2007 @ 7:10 pm

  27. This one’s even better:

    Comment by Thomas R — February 6, 2007 @ 7:17 pm

  28. oh good grief – how on earth did they come up with that ? that is so mistranslated that it makes me shiver. i have heard men all over england being called ‘tw@s’ (made it safer for you) and it is in no way taken in offense. as is the case between quarsan and i.

    mind you, pop me an email and i’ll definitely have ‘my ex-boss is a ……..’ mug made up for you;)

    Comment by zed — February 6, 2007 @ 7:24 pm

  29. It’s a total mistranslation. I can hardly bring myself to write enculé, whereas twunt sounds harmless and, as the Urban Dictionary notes, could (nearly) be said in polite company. I’d never heard the word before, like many of you, but you have to take into account the reaction of your reader to a word, and here I’m certainly not shocked by it.

    In any case, I sure wouldn’t translate a neologism that I’d never heard before by a well-attested word, that’s a total no-no. And I’d definitely include a nice long footnote explanation.

    Comment by O. — February 6, 2007 @ 8:04 pm

  30. The expert’s translation of the “twunt” word is both frightening and funny at the same time. Since “twunt” is not a real word, who is to say you had not made up a parallel meaning for the non-word, such as a combination of “twit” plus “runt,” or “twit” plus “grunt?” Either would suit the individual in question, n’est-ce pas?

    Translate that, Mr. Smarty Pants Translator!

    Good luck, Petite.

    Comment by PJ Carz — February 6, 2007 @ 9:10 pm

  31. I’m a translator too, though not of the “certified” kind.

    While the translation is clearly wide of the mark, it may prove quite difficult to get any of those “certified” bods to speak out against their colleague.

    Plan accordingly.

    If I can be of any help…

    Comment by Claire — February 6, 2007 @ 9:42 pm

  32. I just Googled “twunt”. Allegedly it is an 1990s invention, appears in many online dictionaries and has a number of supposed meanings. My head now hurts. None of which probably helps your Prud’Hommes (exactly what does that translate to?) case but may make you feel somewhat consoled.

    Comment by H — February 6, 2007 @ 10:42 pm

  33. In his sleep deprived state, Yaxlich found the title of this post exceptionally funny.

    The slang word for a ladies front bottom at his school was ‘mot’ which stood for Map Of Tasmania, referring to the hairy bit above said front bottom.

    He is now blushing greatly and going to log off.

    Comment by Yaxlich — February 6, 2007 @ 11:10 pm

  34. Twunt means enculé??? and since when??? Gee, why not pedophile or nazi since we’re at it? This translator is OUT OF CONTROL!
    Conculé sounds way too strong still, compared to twunt which sounds less painful…(logically)
    I’d stick to the “fool” translation, I don’t see any other way to translate it.
    Good luck Petite.

    Comment by frog with a blog — February 7, 2007 @ 12:15 am

  35. Well Babelfish doesn’t think your boss is too bad a hat as bosses go. It translates enculé as asshole which is practically a compliment in the circumstances and would pass as fair comment in most legal circles. Wiki seems to be more or less in agreement.

    Comment by andrew — February 7, 2007 @ 2:03 am

  36. For not knowing better than translating a brand new word with such a worn out one, doesn’t the Certified Translator deserve, at least, to be asked where he did find his Certification?
    Isn’t it agreed by all translators that
    “All slithy were the borogoves”
    is correctly translated with:
    “Tout flivoreux vaquaient les borogoves”, and that
    “…the mome raths outgrabe”
    “…les verchons fourgus bourniflaient”?

    New concepts ask for new words. I remember, decades ago… a Référendum was brewing, in France (Référendums were still a novelty back then: it was not the latest Référendum, the one about la Constitution Européenne, it was a Référendum from long ago) and newspapers editors were doing the usual in such a solemn circumstance: squeezing their brains out for issuing coinable headlines… the satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaîné won hands down (in my opinion) with this simple line: Les congres voteront ouigre… (feel free, dear Petite, to offer your own english translation!)
    I quoted this without the slightest intent for implying or suggesting that votre patrongre est un congre, of course, but just for exemplifying how the French language may, if needed, sound explicit whithout being actually offensive (ou alors le contraire).

    On a side note, portmanteau words are almost as English as is five-o-clock, while the French language shows a fondness for à-peu-près; so, what about “ongulé” instead of “conculé”? Sounds frencher, à mon avis.

    Comment by Géronimo — February 7, 2007 @ 2:59 am

  37. I never would have imagined that being a conseiller aux prud’hommes could get to be this much fun. Hoping the humor of the situation is not lost on them…

    Comment by ontario frog — February 7, 2007 @ 3:20 am

  38. Don’t you simply file a document with the original text stating that as a native-English speaker you have no idea what this means in English ?

    Surely it is not for you to infer the meaning of every posting on this Blog any more than you were responsible for the content of incoming mail in your office ?

    Comment by Voyager — February 7, 2007 @ 8:33 am

  39. Perhaps you could give them printouts of the viagra ads which no doubt get caught in your Spam-guard ?

    Comment by Voyager — February 7, 2007 @ 8:34 am

  40. I presume your legal adviser has a contrary translation so French translation of meanings can be bandied around chez les Prud’hommes ad nauseam.

    Comment by AussieGil — February 7, 2007 @ 8:56 am

  41. Ouch.
    I do sort of feel for the translator though. What responsibility! I hope you’ll be able to convey some of the humour/allusion at some point (without getting the translator fired!). Blogging is a whole world of intertextuality that that translator probably hadn’t come across, so although crucial, it’s not entirely unforgivable. Nobody’s perfect.

    Funny how many translators have sprung up in your comments box (I’m one too).

    Comment by flechesbleues — February 7, 2007 @ 9:05 am

  42. Bonjour,

    I’m not a translator just a FrancoAmerican for whom there is only 1 translation C.O.N., why the constructed word is describing the same thing is it not? Although one term is one of the moist spiteful in the English language and the other more of a laugh.

    Interested in knowing how the translator found the particular phrase or the person who gave it to him(or her)as there may be some Data privacy issues here if it was picked up from your PC at your then employer.

    Love the blog BTW, soldier on

    Comment by Patrick — February 7, 2007 @ 9:19 am

  43. I’d suggest ‘couillon’ as a better translation. Even if it strays from ladyparts into manparts (pillock)it does convey the partly affectionate, partly vindictive meaning.
    The translator’s surprisingly sloppy offering of ‘enculé’ would be a more anatomically accurate equivalent of ‘silly sod’or ‘daft bugger’, don’t you think?

    Comment by Parkin Pig — February 7, 2007 @ 10:02 am

  44. This post made me laugh, but I hope it won’t be taken seriously by the prud’hommes?

    Surely the official translator has met combined words or puns like that before? What about the word franglais? He must know that that means not completely français, not completely anglais non plus, but a bit of both? How would he translate that?

    There have got to be some more examples in French, but I just can’t think of them at the moment. Will scratch head/ask French people I know and post any results to give you some ammunition.

    Comment by suziboo — February 7, 2007 @ 10:54 am

  45. Twat is my favourite english swear word and unfortunateley the C word is my boyfriend’s… So twunt might become a firm favourite chez Pepette!
    So sorry it has been so grossly mistranslated – and looking forward to the debate at the Académie Française ! ;)

    And good luck with the impending tribunal case.

    Comment by Pepette — February 7, 2007 @ 11:06 am

  46. Ha! It’s called a ‘mot-valise’ in French and has some very illustrious names who make them…look at this for details.

    Comment by suziboo — February 7, 2007 @ 11:34 am

  47. hope this isn’t going to turn round and bite you on the bum. you could call expert witnesses … you’d have no shortage of volunteers (yours truly included, bien sur – and i was a translator for some years)

    Comment by mad muthas — February 7, 2007 @ 11:55 am

  48. Seems this post is causing all of us translators to go up in arms! Who would’ve thought there were so many of us lurking in the shadows?

    Anyway, you probably have a lawyer at hand to defend you – let him make the point to the court that this is a gross mistranslation, made by somebody who obviously had no idea of the context. There are enough references of the word on Internet, as pointed out by my dear collegues, to prove that this particular translator, however “certified” he/she may be, did not bother to do much research on his/her subject. Which is a gross mistake, in our profession.

    I’m all for a “Your translator is a twunt” mug!

    Comment by V. — February 7, 2007 @ 2:36 pm

  49. It seems pretty likely that the parties involved speak English as most people in France seem to so maybe it will sort out. It seems the first words people learn in another language are “dirty words” so they probably would be familiar with Tw** and *unt. I would also find it shocking if all parties involved were not reading this blog daily anyway. I would if it were me. I imagine them all snickering over the absolute absurdity of it all. Do you have French Court TV?

    Comment by Jules — February 7, 2007 @ 3:45 pm

  50. Twenty years ago my boss was a genuine oxfbridge brit but polluted by french behaviour. One day my assistant was upset and planned to sue him because he told her “she was a pity”.

    I still strongly suspect he told her “she was a PT”.

    How the certified translator près les prud’hommes should react?

    Comment by Saluki — February 7, 2007 @ 7:41 pm

  51. V., I’m all for a “Your translator is a twunt” mug!

    just email me and it can be done. honest ;)

    Comment by zed — February 7, 2007 @ 8:30 pm

  52. Did you know they’re discussing this on a translators’ forum:


    Comment by anxious — February 7, 2007 @ 9:24 pm

  53. I’m sure that you made that translator’s week, Petite. “Guess what I translated today?”

    And I want one of those mugs!

    Comment by Meg — February 8, 2007 @ 6:31 am

  54. Regarding eee by gum, I’m reminded of the sam small verses:

    (to be read with strong yorkshire accent): An’ Napoleon said “Sacrebleu” (that’s French for “By Gum”)

    Comment by Tirno — February 8, 2007 @ 4:55 pm

  55. meg, if you want a mug too, then please, please email me and i’ll have Q send the logo to the printers and you can order away. whether it’s your present, past or future boss – whatever.

    i don’t pop in here everyday, so you need to let me know!

    (sorry about that, P.)

    Comment by zed — February 8, 2007 @ 6:32 pm

  56. Moi, I belong to a message board called Sluntville. The members are affectionately known as Slunts. Wink, wink.

    Comment by antonella — February 9, 2007 @ 1:11 am

  57. Urban dictionary defines twunt as “n. Useful, satisfying yet inoffensive combination of two very rude words which can safely be spoken in primmest and properest company. Twat and Cunt.”

    The inoffensive bit is the key here – make sure your lawyer knows this!

    Good luck

    Comment by Russ — February 12, 2007 @ 5:07 am

  58. Good luck with the Prud’hommes Petite.

    Comment by Pierre L — February 14, 2007 @ 10:20 am

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