vineyardI spent a lovely Christmas and New Year at my parents’ new house near Bordeaux, in the Entre-Deux-Mers region, surrounded by vineyards and châteaux. We flew back on Saturday. My mother is always anxious when we’re travelling, particularly when the weather is bad, so she went online to track our flight from Bordeaux. She entered our flight number on the KLM website and one word appeared: Departed. She guessed it meant that it had left, but used Google Translate to check. The result was: défunt, disparu (defunct, deceased). A slightly better French translation would have been parti. Should she sue Google for emotional trauma?
Happy 2010 everyone!

By | 2010-01-03T18:41:50+00:00 January 3rd, 2010|Words|2 Comments

About the Author:

I am Céline Graciet, a freelance English to French translator. Since 2003 I’ve been writing on all sorts of areas linked to translation and the life of a translator.


  1. Lis January 5, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    Yes, and I know a good lawyer for compensation claims. It could take her years to get over this…

  2. Jonathan Goldberg January 29, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    English speakers who read a French announcement that so-and-so “a disparu” would be in the reverse situation from your mother, in the sense that they would not know (without a command of French) that the person in question had died. They would understand that he or she had got lost. The reason for this is apparent from a reading of the definition of “to disappear” in the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language:
    1. to cease to be visible; vanish
    2. to go away or become lost, esp. without explanation
    3. to cease to exist: the pain has disappeared
    Referring to the verb “to disappear”, together with its synonyms « to evanesce, to evaporate, to fade, to vanish » the Dictionary states:
    These verbs mean “to pass out of sight or existence: a skyscraper disappearing in the fog; time seeming to evanesce; courage evaporating; memories fading away; hope slowly vanishing”.
    In conclusion, “to depart” (as well as “departure”)and “to disappear, (as well as “disappearance”) are never used in English, as their equivalents are in French, to refer to the death of a person.
    The above explanation may not tell your readers anything they did not already know, but if you bring this to your mother’s attention, it might reassure her in all future contingencies.

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