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I am festive. I just don’t do Christmas very well (faux friends # 002)

November 22, 2010
I have been officially tagged as non-festive. Except that I am. In French. Indeed when in British English festive refers especially to Christmas celebrations, in French festif/ive refers to any kind of celebrations, from private parties to end-of-year celebrations. This is very easy to understand once you know that we use one and only word for any kind of celebrations, fête, from the same latin root as festif/ve (festum, also the root of your festive, although indirectly), whether we speak about holidays, parties, your name day or even a fun fair. The nuances are brought by the use of the singular/plural form and/or an adjective. And some grammatical/pragmatic context. For example a fun fair is une fête foraine whereas a festival is une fête religieuse — as an aside, don’t be fooled either by the French festival which refers only to Arts and Science festivals. If I am speaking about a name day, it would be made explicit by the use of a possessive determinant, because this is a very personal fête. Whereas if I am going to a party, I am going to une fête, marked (unmarked, linguist friends?) by an undetermined article. And to point to this special period of the end of the year, we say very simply les fêtes de fin d’année, i.e. the end-of-year celebrations, often shorten as les fêtes.
So don’t be surprised if I am quibbling when you call me non-festive, because what it activates in my French brain is much more vast than Christmas. And I like the rest of it.
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