Posts Tagged ‘poutine au smoked meat’

I thought this was interesting: McDonalds has a new dish — smoked meat poutine in English, or poutine au smoked meat in French. (See screenshots below.) Both terms are half English, half French, using the same words.

French version:

English version:

What’s also interesting is the use of italics in the French version’s description (and lack thereof in the English version), which tells us something interesting about how speakers of each language view borrowed words.

In the French version’s description (click on the image to read it; it’s in the blue section), smoked meat is in italics because the term comes from English. Bouffe, meaning food, is also in italics because it’s an informal usage.

When you go to the English version’s description, maybe you’d likewise expect poutine to be in italics because it comes from French — except it’s not. It’s treated like any other English word.

The use of italics on smoked meat in French isn’t really surprising — words borrowed from English are frequently put in italics. But this does tell us something important about how words borrowed from English are viewed. By using italics, we’re being reminded that such words fall outside of what’s considered to be “French.”

It’s as if the author or translator is saying to readers, “yes, this is the way it’s said — smoked meat — but we probably shouldn’t say it that way, so we’ll need italics here to signal that.”

What about the italics on bouffe? Italics here are more surprising. Bouffe is a French word — informal, yes, but not borrowed from English. Bouffe and smoked meat, though, get the same treatment: italics. This tells us something as well about how informal words are viewed, at least by the author or translator of this text. If bouffe was put in italics, we can probably assume that words like pogner, capoter, niaiser, etc., would’ve been as well, had they been used.

The English version doesn’t use any italics in the description. In fact, it would seem downright odd to see poutine put in italics in the English version, wouldn’t it?

As for informal words, there aren’t any in the English text equivalent to bouffe, but let’s imagine for a minute that an informal word really had been used: yummy, let’s say. If this word had been used, do you think it would’ve been put in italics?

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