Jean Véronis
Aix-en-Provence
(France)


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vendredi, juin 30, 2006

Translation: Feuille de route



--Hello? Hello? Jacques, what are the news?

I've been away for fifteen days,
I'm on the line, I'm calling you
What will I find on my return?

--All's very well,
Madam the Marchioness,
All's very well, all's very well!
However,
We do have to tell you,
We deplore a little nothing,
An incident,
A silly thing:

The far-right made it through to the second round of the presidential elections, 15,000 old dears pegged it during the heat wave, there was a failed referendum, the suburbs went up in flames, we saw sit-ins and strikes at the universities for 12 weeks, one (or two) Clearstream scandal(s), an outrageous amnesty, a revolt by MPs in the ruling party, the Prime Minister’s ratings at an all-time low in the opinion polls... But apart from all that, everything’s just fine.

Arlette Chabot’s interview with His Royal Highness President Chirac on the state-run TV station France 2 last night was very reminiscent of an old French song by Ray Ventura, "Tout va très bien, Madame la Marquise" ("All's very well, Madam the Marchioness" --see history here).





In France we’ve been reading about nothing else in the press recently, and listening to nothing else on the radio. In his interview, Jacques Chirac used the expression “feuille de route” no fewer than nine times (if I counted correctly).

Now, this is an expression that has more or less died out today, at least in its original sense. A “feuille de route” was in fact a sinister document sent to soldiers, such as the poilus (the nickname given to French troops in the First World War), which ordered them to go to the front and set out their exact itinerary for getting there. Forty years of peace can wear out some words, and the expression fell into disuse in the Eighties. The Treasury of the French language says for instance that “some recent general dictionaries describe “feuille de route” as archaic”. More careful research would need to be carried out to be sure, but I have a feeling that the expression “feuille de route” came back into use again with the French translation of the famous “Road Map to Peace” that was drawn-up by the “Quartet” (the United States, the United Nations, Russia and the European Union) in an attempt to resolve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in 2003.

At the time I couldn’t understand why on earth “road map” was translated as “feuille de route”, since the meaning of the two expressions is completely different. Unlike a road map, a “feuille de route” is not simply a document that shows the topography of a specific region and leaves you free to choose your own route, but a direct order, and the soldier who refuses to comply is charged with desertion. See you at the court martial; do not pass Go, do not collect £200.

So, what we have here is a bad translation. Who knows where it came from? It was probably the first word that some dogsbody from the press agency Agence France Presse was able to come up with in time for his or her tight deadline, and it was then taken up by the rest of the media – no questions asked. So far, so typical. What’s funny is that in Tuesday’s papers the English press made an equally bad reverse translation (see for example The Guardian), and translated “feuille de route” as “road map”, which is at least consistent, but just as wrong; in the case of Chirac and soldier Villepin, the French meaning of “feuille de route” is most definitely the right one! How can it be translated? A “feuille de route” is something of a cross between call-up papers and a travel warrant. And while warrant suggests an element of authority, it is not normally used metaphorically. In many ways, we would almost be better off with a more commonplace term such as plan of action.

So, that’s how a bad translation can creep into our dictionaries, which are going to have to find a place for this odd couple now that they’ve been living together for so long.

Anyway, “feuille de route” or not, it’s just like in Palestine. Everything’s fine...

8 Commentaires:

Blogger Lesley a écrit...

The Canadians seem to have yet another translation. For them, the expression "feuille de route" is associated not with the military but with rail transport and is translated as waybill (cf. granddictionnaire.org). Somehow I can't see Villepin as a train driver any more than I can see him as a poilu. Yeah, everything's just hunky dory here in Chiracland.

30 juin, 2006 09:34  
Blogger David Barry a écrit...

I would say that a "roadmap" in English has a metaphorical meaning: this is where we want to go and how we want to get there.

I understand enough French to follow the news at least, and when I saw the Chirac interview, in my head I translated "feuille de route" as "roadmap". From what you've said, the French expression has historical meanings that the English one doesn't, but I think it's a reasonable translation nonetheless.

01 juillet, 2006 00:58  
Anonymous soso a écrit...

Entendu ce matin à la radio :
"Raymond Domenech n'a pas encore dévoilé la feuille de match"...

01 juillet, 2006 13:19  
Anonymous sopadeajo a écrit...

Es terrible, pero también en Iberia, nos invaden con estas 2 palabras "hoja de ruta", que no significan NADA.
Los políticos las utilizan porque no saben ya qué decir.Es un puro asco!!

Je vous traduierai ceci un autre jour, car il n´y a pas que l´angl(auque) comme seconde langue.

01 juillet, 2006 20:14  
Anonymous Nagase a écrit...

Il y a dans une chanson de Bob Dylan (Desolation Row?) cette expression, qui m'a toujours fasciné: "they sell road maps for the soul", qui m'évoque... la carte du tendre!

Feuille de route est une traduction nulle, un contresens total, mais malheureusement, c'est avec de genre d'âneries reprises en coeur que, comme on dit, la langue évolue depuis que la langue existe. La langue évolue sous l'impulsion des ignorants. Ils sont les vrais maîtres du langage; il est temps de l'admettre une bonne fois pour toutes.

18 août, 2006 00:52  
Blogger Laurent a écrit...

Voici un articles (et des commentaires) fort intéressants... Mais pourquoi ne pas en plus proposer une "bonne" traduction ? Comme dit l'expression, "la critique est aisée, mais l'art...".
Je suis moi-même traducteur et je me pose souvent des questions comme celle-ci. Je n'ai malheureusement pas de proposition (puisque je suis tombé sur cet article pendant mes recherches), mais je serai vraiment curieux de savoir ce que propose l'auteur de l'article (et les lecteurs!)

30 mai, 2008 12:04  
Anonymous Anonyme a écrit...

une possibilité en anglais serait "marching orders"

08 octobre, 2008 22:13  
Anonymous Anonyme a écrit...

The correct translation term for "feuille de route" is "itinerary".

04 décembre, 2008 00:54  

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