Elle s’est retirée discrètement.

Elle s’est retirée discrètement.

ell say ruh-tee-ray dee-skrett-MAH. Click below to hear this.*

She withdrew discreetly.

Having just attended a lovely retirement celebration yesterday, I started thinking about the French and English words for retirement. You know me–it’s always about the words!

In French, tirer means to pull. It’s a good word to know when approaching a door, so you don’t smack your nose. The prefix re- is from Latin and implies a backward movement, so in its original sense, retirer meant to pull back.

You can use retirer to refer to many actions, from pulling out a splinter to taking money out of the bank. When you make it reflexive (with se), it acquires even more meanings: leaving a room or withdrawing from a competition, for instance. But not retiring from employment.

Some people retire because they can, and some because they must, kicking and screaming. In either case, ils prennent leur retraite, they take/make their retreat. As for our friend above, I suspect she simply left the room quietly when the conversation between her friends became heated and she judged it was no longer any of her business.

*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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