on 23 December 2011
I was holding off for the second edition of this, but no dice. It's gotta be five stars because I know of no contender (not that I've looked) although much of this metalanguage (colloquial? we're talking SLANG here) is now in the standard dictionaries. I must warn native French speakers, though - this only works one way. Lovatt's translations into English are exquisitely ill-judged. There's one on every page but this will have to suffice, under 'poigne': 'Let's face it, he's not one to dilly-dally!' I pity any French would-be hipster essaying that. Tilly-vally, sir, and pish - slang, by definition, should always be effortlessly, naturally up to the mark
One more example (can't resist): ringard (geek, nurd, dweeb, anorak) is rendered 'gormless nurk'. Try getting your mouth round that, Frenchie! (But I guess the equivalents offered by this old buffer of a reviewer, namely moi, also look a trifle musty.) For coverage, though, MM les anglais, despite its relative compactness this is truly a humdinger, though one could wish for more derivations*. Only your Petit Robert will tell you that that puzzling term avoir les pieds nickelés** is nothing to do with nickel. Oh, you don't have a Petit Robert? It will change your life. Traintrain (routine), by the way, is now standard French and should gracefully shuffle off to make room for new slang
As for Lovatt's rendering of 'il a toujours roulé en citron' as 'he's always been a Citroen addict', what in the name of goodness is wrong with 'he's always driven a Citroen' - or, if he absolutely must, 'he's mad about Citroens'? Or how about that useful phrase 'bien dans sa peau', which Lovatt translates laboriously as 'to feel on top of the world and in the happiest frame of mind'. Collins simply has 'to feel great'. Can the man never put a foot right? Just because it's 'popular' doesn't make the demotic register any the easier to carry off - and by the sound of it Lovatt doesn't mingle much with the demos
More backslang (like beur/Arabe) since H&L's day: keuf (flic), teuf (fete)
* There are some - godasse (shoe), via godillot (which they don't tell you), comes from one Alexis Godillot, supplier of boots to the army from 1870, hence also godillot: true blue, dependable - but Robert alone will tell you that a corniaud (mongrel) is one spawned in a street corner (corne; think tricorn - which gives one to ponder the common origin of horn and corner..)
** H&L's equivalent for pieds nickelés, 'jammy bugger', is I suspect their happiest trouvaille. Can we have that new edition now?