Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Word Of The Week


I started seeing this word on the computer. Some of the software on my pc is in French, of course, and I have had to learn a lot of computer lingo all over again. Much of it is borrowed directly from English and the rest is usually easy to figure out from context.

Today's word usually shows up in e-mail programs. It means "draft," like when you're saving a message that you haven't finished composing yet. Confusing it with corbeille, which means trash can or recycle bin, can get you into big trouble.

But I saw another meaning for brouillon recently in the tv guide. The description of a film mentioned that the script and the directing were brouillons.

As it turns out, this means that they are what I think we'd call "all over the map," mixed up, confused, or without any apparent order.

The verb, brouiller, means to mix up, to confuse, to render unclear. There's an expression in French, brouiller les pistes, which more or less means to put someone on the wrong track, to make it difficult to follow one's trail, or to make something hard to trace. I first heard this expression in a song by Canadian singer Roch Voisine.

And brouillard, or fog, comes from this root as well. It's not hard to see why.

Se débrouiller, on the other hand, means to make your way, to get by, or to make do. I do this all the time in French. There's a great French expression: le système d (d stands for débrouiller). It jokingly refers to having to figure things out for yourself, or being on your own. How did you get to work during the train strike? Système d.


  1. Ever heard of "oeufs brouillés"- scrambled eggs :-)

  2. there's also, se brouiller avec quelqu'un, to fall out, which has become in youthful slang, 'on s'est embrouillés', meaning 'on s'est disputés'

  3. beave, but of course! How could I forget?

    claude, I think I've actually heard that on tv, although I'm not sure that the meaning registered in my brain at the time.

  4. And in "Systeme D" you have also a more popular meaning. D stand for "Démerder" which is going out of the troubles (clean your shoes after two feet in the bull sh*t).


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