FRENCH LESSONS: Le But

Every week on the way to my French accounting classes I pass a home goods store called “But City” [see photo below] and I chuckle each time I pass it (same is true for the café called Le But). Now this is just me being an immature American, but when naming any business in this global world you need to consider translations. It’s just unfortunate that le but in French (you don’t pronounce the “t”), translates to “goal,” something positive and a bit more serious than “but” which translates to mais, or the other “butt” (which is derrière, en français). For instance I can say, le but pour mon cours des cartes était 500 étudiants, mais j’ai 700+! (The goal was to have 500 students in my map class, but I have 700+!). It can also be used as a reference in sports. You can see my first le football experience here. Note too, that goal you see in my illustration is also referred to as le cage.

French Lessons is an ongoing series where I teach you French words and cultural lessons while beefing up my Illustrator skills.

13 comments

  • I usually spell ‘butt’ as in ‘derriere’ with 2 t’s but is that not common?

    In any case, I doubt I will ever forget ‘le but’ as it was in several Canadian FSL textbooks where we would read about hockey in the sports unit.

    • You’re so right, Jay. I’ve completely lost all language skills in both languages ;) Updating now. But City will still make me laugh!

    • Well, Jenna. Like most places, I’m convinced no one here has had personal/biz finance classes before. To work in France everyone has a status, and my status led me to my professional association who acts as my watch dog. I pay an annual fee, and take advantage of their “free” workshops from “livre journal” (where they still encourage people to use the paper notebooks even after explaining how complicated this can get) to balancing your check book “rapproachment bancaire” or filling out tax forms. My association is for designers and artists, yet they give the worst presentations ever which often start with random questions from everyone without much focus. It’s entertaining + full of exceptions! Hoping to be able to afford an accountant one of these days!

  • Walking around Germany and reading signs often left me with the giggles. For example, schmuck means jewelry. Can you imagine how often I giggled at schmuck? *giggle*

  • Actually, you do pronounce the ‘t’, just like for ‘août’. My MIL doesn’t, and says “mois d’aoû”. Drives me mad, though she is pronouncing it correctly!

  • “To be clear, pronouncing the T is correct for “but” and not for “août” though most people do it anyway…probably a bad example on my part ;)”
    You have this exactly backwards! “Le but” has a silent /t/ and “août” has an enunciated /t/.

    • shariUSA, you are correct. The month of August (“août”) definitely has the letter “t” pronounced, while the noun “but” does not.

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