Au contraire

This is the place to post questions and discussions on usage and style. The members of the Wordwizard Clubhouse will also often be able to help you to formulate that difficult letter.
Post Reply

Au contraire

Post by Stevenloan » Wed Mar 27, 2019 3:47 am

"When a girl goes on and on about how much she doesn't like a guy and her friend believes that means she really does like him, this is an example of when someone might say au contraire"

- Hi guys! The phrase "au contraire" was borrowed from French. Do you still use it and is it still widely used where you live?

Your answers will be greatly appreciated.

StevenLoan
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Re: Au contraire

Post by Bobinwales » Wed Mar 27, 2019 5:22 pm

No Steven, I do not use the expression and have never done.
I would consider any (native) English speaker saying "au contraire" to be pretentious in the extreme.
Miss Piggy or Del Boy even. (Always assuming that one or the other has managed the trip to Vietnam of course).
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

Re: Au contraire

Post by tony h » Wed Mar 27, 2019 11:09 pm

Following on from Bob's comments I will only say; I have a friend who might have used the phrase. It won't come out in normal normal conversation. It is used in a slightly theatrical tone.


A: I suppose we will be staying in!
B: "au contraire, I have here", flourishing some tickets, "tickets for Ibsen at the Little Theatre, and a table at the Cafe Manchuria".
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: tony

I'm puzzled therefore I think.

Re: Au contraire

Post by trolley » Thu Mar 28, 2019 1:48 am

That's a bit of a hard one for me to pin down. I'm not sure I'd actually put it in the "pretentious" category. I don't think I've ever heard anyone use it without their tongue in their cheek. Rather than trying to impress, it's more like an imitation of someone trying to impress. Theatrical, for sure. Frou-frou, probably. I wonder if it's because it's a foreign expression or, more specifically because it's a French expression. The English version, on the contrary, doesn't sound like someone putting on airs.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Re: Au contraire

Post by Erik_Kowal » Thu Mar 28, 2019 3:22 am

To my mind, whether the expression comes across as pretentious is dependent partly on who is saying it, in what context and with what intention.

For instance, one famous fictional character who utters it quite often is Agatha Christie's fastidious Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot -- usually when he is contradicting his very British (and rather literal-minded) sidekick, Captain Hastings. It comes naturally to Poirot to say it, because he is a native speaker of French, but at the same time his prissiness also makes him sound a little precious when he includes it in an English sentence.

From the mouth of Del Boy (from the British TV comedy series 'Only fools and horses') it does sound pretentious. This is because we know that Del Boy's social aspirations exceed both his intelligence and his education, so when he uses it, it is always in order to sound smarter or more sophisticated than he is: the comedic effect of Del Boy's speech comes partly from the viewer being aware that he rarely convinces his audience of his sophistication.

(French was historically taught mostly to middle- and upper-class children in Britain, whereas working-class children have tended to get a more vocationally-oriented education. So there is still a degree of class snobbery in Britain that revolves around a person's ability to speak French, or lack of it.)
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Re: Au contraire

Post by Stevenloan » Thu Mar 28, 2019 9:46 am

Bob, tony h, trolley and Erik: Thank you all so so much for your answers. They are very helpful.

StevenLoan
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Re: Au contraire

Post by Shelley » Thu Mar 28, 2019 8:41 pm

Erik_Kowal wrote:
Thu Mar 28, 2019 3:22 am
. . . whether the expression comes across as pretentious is dependent partly on who is saying it, in what context and with what intention.
Indeed. Late to the party once again, I still must add my two cents: "au contraire, mon frere" is nothing but cool when Bart Simpson says it. I have a memory of another badass, Jeff Spicoli, uttering the phrase in the movie Fast TImes at Ridgemont High, but I could be wrong. If Spicoli DID say it, though, it would be cool.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

ACCESS_END_OF_TOPIC
Post Reply