Les « Intraduisibles »

Les intraduisibles – Too French for translation…

#6 BÊtise

With its origins found in the Latin, ‘bestia’, literally meaning, ‘beast’ or ‘animal’, the noun bêtise encompasses connotations of human ineptness, describing actions demonstrating an acute lack of intelligence, judgement or good sense. Dictionaries rely on vague extrapolations to translate this word, such as ‘something silly’ or ‘a foolish act’. The English language is, as such, incapable of offering an accurate translation to convey the essence of triviality and superficial annoyance behind bêtise.

Given its great versatility, a common usage of this noun is in the French phrase, ‘faire des bêtises’, an expression frequently associated with children and their minor misdemeanours. Predominantly applied to actions of little consequence or gravity, no English counterpart exists for ‘faire des bêtises’ to convey the underlying meaning that the incident in question is one that could have easily been averted or avoided.

The expression, “je fais rien que des bêtises”, becomes the chorus line of Sabine Paturel’s debut pop song. Released in 1986, “Les Bêtises” describes the mischievous havoc that is possible when one feels abandoned and neglected. In this instance, the performer recounts the minor disasters that she carried out to punish her boyfriend for having left her. With the song’s nursery rhyme structure, the childlike triviality and acute innocence of the noun bêtise shines through in Sabine’s performance.