On prend le tire-fesses ou le téléphérique?
aw prahl teer-fay sool tay-lay-fay-REEK? Click below to hear this.
Shall we take the T-bar or the cable car?
Theoretically, ski season is beginning! Although many of us have yet to see any snow. So, when you get near a hill, the pressing question becomes: On prend le tire-fesses ou le téléphérique?
You probably already knew that the Greek root tele- means far or distant. Did you also know about the other Greek root in this word? It is phero-, which means bearer, a thing or a person that carries. And indeed, the téléphérique is a good way to get to the top of a tall mountain so you can ski down.
If the mountain is not so tall, you might consider the T-bar, so named because it is…ahem…two bars put together in the shape of a T. But what’s this the French call it? Well, it does have an official name: le téléski. You can figure that one out by yourself.
But it is so much more fun to call it by its (very) familiar name: le tire-fesses. The verb tirer means to pull, and les fesses are buttocks. So a tire-fesses is a butt-puller!
Notice how the word is constructed: first the verb, in the third-person singular (he/she/it does something). Second, the noun, which functions as the object of the verb. It’s what is being acted upon. That’s typical of French. A tire-bouchon is a corkscrew, or cork-puller. An essuie-pieds is a doormat, or foot-wiper. In English, on the other hand, we tend to put the noun first and then turn the verb into another noun, so we have two nouns in a row. That’s what’s typical in English, and it can drive a translator nuts. English strings one noun after another in a row, and sometimes it is difficult to figure out how each is related to the others.
Alternate audio file link: tire-fesses-ou-telepherique