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if your French girlfriend wants to smack you, don’t dial 999 (awkward Frenchism # 001)

December 17, 2010
Earlier today I was explaining to an American colleague how the guy I saw yesterday only smacked me. In a millisecond her face told me I just said something wrong. What I meant is that he just pecked me, although peck does not sound to me strong enough to translate the French smack. Indeed, smack is totally part of the French language, though colloquial. It is a really nice one, because it is obviously a word we stole from English. The meaning is here, we didn’t distorted it: the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines smack as “putting something somewhere with a lot of force so that it makes a loud noise”, and the French smack is all about two pairs of lips meeting in a strong and noisy way. OK, I am only making excuses, because the truth is that the smack as a loud kiss exists in English and that I couldn’t be understood only because I used it as a verb, which does not exist. You can peck someone but the smack is just an event, not an action. I beg to differ but hey… The English smack is also something you can give to a simple friend, when in French you smack only people you exchange fluids with (or might). Therefore there is here potential for awkward Englicisms too: don’t be surprised now if your best French acquaintance avoids you after you said wanting to give her/him a smack.
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