Flat Screen and Pregnant

A Kaleberg journey into computer French

We were recently browsing FNAC to see what new bandes designée Goetzinger and Christin have come out with since they wrapped up their Agence Hardy trilogy. That's a series of graphic novels, which are at the extreme upper limit of our French reading ability. We'd be lost without all the clever drawings. En route, we could not help noticing an ordinateur ultra-portable for sale, and we knew what that was. The Agence Hardy books were set in the 1950s, but we've been keeping what little French we have up to date. An ordinateur is a computer, so an ordinateur ultra-portable is an ultra-portable ordinateur, presumably a light weight laptop.

Pack of PregnantsThen we noticed the item on the right. We could figure out Fnacman a encore frappé. That means Fnacman has struck again, except that should probably have been Homme de FNAC. The TDK XS-IV S-80 80 Watts, we recognized right away. That's the same in English and Japanese, and probably in French as well. Hey, 59 euros, marked down from 99, that's the universal language. We could even figure out how to cliquez ici, since that's just onomatopoeia, though at least one web site had users souris ici, or mouse here. (Or it could mean insert a smiley here, since sourire means to smile in French).

As for pack d'enceintes, we had to look that one up. We knew what enceinte means. It's hard not to if you read bandes designée, which are much more grown up than American comic books. Enceinte means pregnant. Pack, according to Ultralingua, our translation tool, means pack. Enceinte also means a surrounding wall, which doesn't seem much more appropriate. However, there is a third definition. Enceinte also means a speaker, presumably an electronics component, and not an itinerant lecturer.

So, when we ran into a special offer for a desktop computer (ordinateur de bureau) with écran plat et enceintes, we were right at home. That's flat screen and pregnant, or perhaps flat screen and speakers.

We've actually been interested in computer French since the 1967 Saul Rosen book, Programming Systems and Languages, highlighted a French Fortran compiler with an ECRITEZ statement instead of a WRITE statement. So much for the dream of portability. Given how many automotive and aviation terms we borrowed from the French, including carburator, fuselage and aileron, one might expect the French to be eager to borrow some back.

But, when American computers moved to bytes, the French moved to octets. Octets had the same number of bits as bytes, but clearly, byte was too Anglo-Saxon for the Continent. This means that an American computer with 512MB of memory has 512Mo de memoire. Megahertz are megahertz in English and in French, as Joseph Campbell discovered when developing his ideas about the Universal Megahertz Myth. Interestingly, the size of an écran plat is in pouces, as in 17 pouces, TFT TN + film. Pouces are inches. Apparently, the metric system lacks a unit for measuring computer screen sizes, probably because it was developed way back in the 18th century.

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