The first time I said the word “boudoir,” he didn’t understand what I was talking about. I had assumed he’d know what I was talking about because I had assumed boudoir was a French word. FBF immediately laughed at me. Boudoir, he assured me between chuckles, is not a French word.
The closest thing is bouder; a French verb meaning to pout.
After explaining to him that it means bedroom (and often said in a way that implies all of the things one might do in said bedroom... or maybe that's just me?), he combined the two definitions to create a new one : “une chambre où on vas pour bouder” (a room where we go to pout).
We continued to use the word in that sense for a while, until one fateful day at the beach in Brittany last summer.
Being in Brittany meant I met a whole new slew of FBF’s childhood friends and once again was bombarded by questions about America.
One of his friends is getting her masters in French literature from La Sorbonne. We got to talking about the use of fake French words in English, and I brought up boudoir.
Much to my delight, and FBF’s humiliation, boudoir is in fact a French word! It's a small room originally created for women to have an intimate, private space amongst themselves, similar to a powder room in English (in the “ladies, don’t we all have to powder our noses at the same time?” sense).
An illustration of a boudoir.
In fairness to FBF, it is a dated term originating from the verb bouder, so he was half right. Plus he's a chemist. I doubt he's ever studied the French language dating from the Era of the Sun King in much length.
As this is not the first time he's lead me astray when it comes to translations (like what the pas means in Nord-Pas-de-Calais), I am as much to blame as he is. I really ought to learn my lesson and stop trusting him on matters of his own language.
Do you know of any "French" words we use in English that aren't French at all? Does your French boyfriend continually lead you astray in matters of the French language?