Fais demi-tour!

Fais demi-tour!

fay duh-mee TOOR! Click below to hear this.*

Make a U-turn!

Our GPS, Jill, says this frequently. We have a habit of disappointing her deeply by choosing a different route than the one she proposes. She has a tendency to panic over our poor choices and our stubbornness. If she were human, she’d be hyperventilating.

Literally, un demi-tour is a half-turn. You turn around 180 degrees from the direction in which you were going.

Of course, cars being unable literally to turn on a dime, they have to make a U-turn on the street, usually from one lane of traffic to another.

If you are stationary, on the other hand, like a soldier in parade formation, you really can turn on a dime. In that case, the terminology is different. Then the command is Volte-face! with the command Faites being understood (faites volte-face!).

Why fais in one case and faites in the other? They can both be translated as About face!, but the first is addressed to one person (the driver, in Jill’s case; she doesn’t give a rip about the passengers), and the second to a whole group–a platoon, say.

The difference between Jill and your sergeant is that, luckily for us, Jill can’t tell us to drop and give her 100 pushups. That would cause a traffic jam for sure. And besides, I can’t even do one.

*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file:


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