You may remember a blog entry I wrote a few weeks ago in which I mentioned the fact that French translations are always longer than their English source texts. Well, yesterday I had to translate the word survivalist. It must be the all-time record breaker in the "foisonnement culprit" category. This is how my dictionary translates survivalist: écologiste extrême vivant en autarcie pour pouvoir survivre à une éventuelle catastrophe nucléaire. That’s right, 13 – 1 to French!
I understand that the survivalist movement never got a firm ground in France and hence that there was no need to coin a French word for it, which is why my dictionary provides an explanation rather than a translation. However, how do you explain the fact that French doesn’t have a word for shallow? Surely they were plenty of shallow things around during the development of early French. Would it have not made sense to create a word instead of using a negative description (peu profond, not deep)?
By the way, I ended up translating survivalist as "écolo passionné de survie". I picked écolo and not écologiste because it was part of a promotional text describing a Hollywood comedy and I was asked to use a friendly and lively style.