https://www.duolingo.com/michaeljames

Beware double meanings!

Avoid using certain words unless you know what you're saying: chatte = female cat and vagina (slang, along the lines of ❤❤❤❤❤). chienne = female dog and ❤❤❤❤❤ (slang, offensive).

6 years ago

63 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/mussels

It's shown up in other discussion threads as well. A lot of people are asking why Duolingo uses la chienne, la chatte, and even l'éléphante so extensively, when they're so seldom used in the real French-speaking world, and confusing on top. Oh well. At least their inclusion in the lessons also allows people to see the ❤❤❤❤❤/❤❤❤❤❤ definitions prominently on the mouse-over text, but even that has the downside of making an otherwise kid-friendly website not so.

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/LoRoan

I think its good that kids should learn what chatte and chienne mean so they arent running around paris yelling "look at all the bitches and the ❤❤❤❤❤!"

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Maniacs_Inc

the developers saw some of this coming, because the word "filles" was listed as "daughters, girls, prostitutes" as possible meanings. Funny when i put in "prostitute" as my answer it was wrong.

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kingthatcher
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Maybe "whore" works, though I am not too happy destroying my precious hearts...

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Glyco
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I was more confused to see that 'la chienne' is translated as 'female dog', when in English the correct term is in fact '❤❤❤❤❤'. Not necessarily a bad word!

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/dEhiN
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In regard to a female dog, no. It's not commonly used but it still IS used when a dog is in the room. But otherwise if there's no dog physically present ❤❤❤❤❤ seems to only take on the slang meaning.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/alsocass

I agree. I would never say "female dog" or even "the dog is female" in a sentence (ie perhaps I bought a dog and my friends wants to know what gender it is.). It would always be "❤❤❤❤❤" or "she's a ❤❤❤❤❤".

Children generally learn the slang terminology first so when they realise their is a legitimate use for the terms they tend to have a little stage where they enjoy being able to say "the meat was bloody" (followed by giggling). Children might prefer to say "female dog" because they are nervous about the appropriateness of using a word that is regard as foul language, however as adults we use the term in its correct context as preferable to any sentence worded to avoid it. ie "It's a ❤❤❤❤❤" rather then "It's a female".

How often do we talk about female dogs? I think really only when you are first introduced to a pet and are discussing where to get it desexed.

(From Australia)

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TabithaOCarroll

Where I'm from in Canada the term ❤❤❤❤❤ is usually only used to refer to a female dog when dog breeders are talking. Most other people would say the dog is a boy or a girl when asked the gender.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/RienaW
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I'm from Southern California and I don't think I've ever heard a dog called a ❤❤❤❤❤. We just say "She's a girl" when asked what gender the dog is. The only time I think it would be used is like what Tabitha mentioned, when dog breeders are talking. But if it's a pet? People would think you're insulting/complaining about your dog, at the very LEAST, regardless of its gender.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Giorgio_mendieta

Its because in English, animals don't change their names with genders, but as far as i know in romance languages they do, (Perro, Perra; Chien, Chienne; Cane, Cagna, etc.)

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Twistinside

What would be the socially preferred way to refer to a dog and cat?

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/scooby509

I think the masculine forms, un chien and un chat, are safe.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/tom_cho

What if you are referring to a specific cat that you know to be female?

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Mirifis
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Actually, as a french girl and owner of a female cat, I never use chatte to talk about her. Because it would be very weird to say, although grammatically correct "Hier, j'ai caressé ma chatte" (meaning litterraly "yesterday, I stroked/pet my female cat") ; I am 100% sure people would laugh or be embarrassed, believing I made things with my genitals...

So, when I want to talk about my female cat, I use the masculine word, even though I know it is a female and it is grammatically wrong. Hier, j'ai caressé mon chat. Où est ton chat ? Tu as un chat ?

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jkohlman

@Twistinside just the masculine/gender neutral forms: chien, chat. English speakers want to say "my dog, she's 2 years old", where the French would say "mon chien, elle a 2 ans" - my dog (neutral/male), SHE etc

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Mirifis
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We would even construct a sentence like "Mon chien a 2 ans... C'est une femelle"

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/senit
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Curiousity: in portuguese, chienne (female dog) is "cachorra", and it also has the ❤❤❤❤❤ meaning as a slang. Chatte (female cat) at other way, in portuguese is "gata", and it can also be a slang: "gata" in portuguese is the same as female cat or a pretty girl.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mouraoaline

Just highlighting, the word "gata" in portuguese (female cat) is normally used as a compliment!

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/goktrinks
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Yes,and for man It's used gato (male cat) to say like "beautiful"for a man.Actually It's not just used as a compliment but also sometimes (usually It's spoken from a woman/girl to a man /boy)(almost never used between people from same gender) used informally usually between young girls to reffer to a boy but not exactly as a compliment,just to call him like 'Hey paulo" It's used "Oi gato".It's not so common this kind of meaning of the word "gato" in portuguese but it can mean it.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/headlessking

So what happens when you want to talk about a female cat? What do you say? Just "un chat"?

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Mirifis
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Just do like french people : use only the masculine to avoid awkward situations :) And add later in a separate sentence that it is a female cat. "Mon chat a 2 ans, c'est une femelle."

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/legitwantdis

I think this is the correct answer: until you are ready for slang in a foreign language (= live and work there 1 year, i'd say), or unless you can live with the risk, yes. just go with the masculines, they're used as generics as well. When you hear 'le chien' you don't assume it's a he.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/adamchalupa

Can anyone tell me the differences in pronunciation between 'chat' and 'chatte'??

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/babylemon

'chat' you don't pronounce the 't' so you'd say it like "sha", whereas 'chatte' you do pronounce the 't' Don't trust google translate!

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/alsocass

Speaking of rude connotations.

In Australia 'chatte' is pronounced the same as "❤❤❤❤" which, is a completely slang past-tense term for ❤❤❤❤. As in "he ❤❤❤❤ himself" or "I was so scared I nearly ❤❤❤❤ myself" and is only said after you have had a beer or two.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ikaris93

We say it in Ireland too but.. Y'know.. Sober..

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/alheagerty

So that's why my high school French teacher told us there was no female form of chat and chien. Would you still use the feminine possessives and adjectives if you were talking about a female cat/dog? Ex: Ma chat or le chien noire?

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Mirifis
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Use the masculine possessive. Mon chat or Mon chien noir.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MrSpark
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I know this discussion is a bit old, but there is so much to say ! In fact, "chat" and "chatte" is just a little example of how we (french) have a dirty meaning when we use the feminine version of a word. Here are some other examples :

Un cochon - you can talk about the animal (the pig), but it can be a dirty guy (we have the expression "manger comme un cochon" / "eat like a pig" when you've got food on your face or on the table when you eat). Une cochonne - It's a woman who can do "dirty things" in bed. You can't even talk about the animal :(

Un homme à femme - "A man for women", meaning a man who seduces a lot of women Une femme à homme - "A woman for men", meaning a woman who sleeps with a lot of men.

Un allumeur - Someone/something who lights up something (like a lighter). (Careful, we rarely use this word.) Une allumeuse - A girl who shows her body to seduce men and who wears tiny clothes, most of the time during a party (at the disco for example).

Un maître - A master, same word as in English. We also call our teacher "maître" when we're at school (before 11 years old). Une maîtresse - It can mean the same thing (for the teacher) if you are a child, but if you say it as a grown-up, "une maîtresse" is the girl you date in secret when you are married. So if your child say he has a "maitresse", it's normal. If it's your husband, you can slap him x)

Un gars - A guy, a dude (for example "Hello guys" is "Salut les gars"). Une garce - An evil woman, who will act behind your back. Most of the time it is used by women against other women.

Un salaud - A bastard Une salope - A whore. It's not really the same word (not the same writing), but orally it's really close. We tend to mix the two words, so you can say "salope" to a girl if you want to say "bastard" to her. It will be even more evil (eviler?).

The following ones are less popular, but you can make a joke with it easily, people will understand.

Un chauffeur - bus or taxi driver. Une chauffeuse - Sounds like the verb "chauffer", which mean "to heat". So she could be a hot girl, a girl who "heat" you :p

Un matheux - A familiar way (but not necessarily wicked) to describe someone who loves math. Une matheuse - A girl who likes to "mater" (it's a french word, but I don't even know how to write it), which means to look at the body of someone rather than his face (the breast, the but ...), like a pervert. It's also use for voyeurs.

I think this tendency of "dirtying" word in feminine comes from the fact that we use the masculine version most of the time. For example, docteur and avocat (doctor and lawyer) are the same if you're man or woman. But, well... I am a man, so I don't know how it feels to speak with feminine words :p

In the same way, there was a one man show with jokes about the "sex of word". For example, sun and good weather are masculine in french, but rain snow tempest are feminine ! Just search for "Roland Magdane la langue française", he found a lot of tricks like this :) (search for a text version to help you translating).

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JerRy_Drug

I face this problem very often. My native language is Russian, so I study English and French and I sometimes get embarassed with all that double meanings! =)

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/RotBohnen
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All of us learning foreign languages have trouble with the innuendos/slang/double meanings. Some of these finer moments can take years of living within a native population to gain. Esp since you are coming from a slavic background, it might be even more difficult as opposed to a traditional English speaker now traversing into French or German.

I started my Russian a little while ago and have already been on enough embarrassed moments on a short trip this summer, not the least of which was me trying to say Nasdrovya every time I took a drink :-D

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/repeatclicks

So, in modern French, should we avoid using chatte and chienne entirely?

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/aucunLien
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until you are ready for slang in a foreign language (= live and work there 1 year, i'd say), or unless you can live with the risk, yes. just go with the masculines, they're used as generics as well. When you hear 'le chien' you don't assume it's a he.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/katcrowder

Thanks very much for this thread. I've apparently already embarrassed myself by talking about my girl cats.... I won't use that anymore.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MateuszKotas
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sooooooo exactly like in English? female cat is a ❤❤❤❤❤ and female dog is a ❤❤❤❤❤ lol

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Frenchsteph

This is so true!

I was writing an essay for my French Writing class this past semester and after six years of study had never been told about "la chatte". Anyways, my essay was about "une fille comme une chatte". I was talking about a second grader who used to act like a cat! Needless to say, when my professor read it, she burst out laughing and had me change it.

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jamal73

long ago, when i was new to North America i was telling to an older couple about my native country and mentioned rooster fights, but i put it as 'cock fights'. the wife promptly corrected me - rooster.. rooster..

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Frenchsteph

That's actually perfectly fine to say wear I am from. (SOuth Carolina in the US). The university mascot is the Gamecock and people regularly use the word 'Cock' on tshirts or by saying "go cocks!" No one would bat an eyelid if you said cock fight.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/pont
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"Cockfight" is indeed the correct term, see e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cockfight . I just checked a dictionary to see if the term "rooster fight" has ever been used... apparently it can mean an obscure 19th-century American children's game involving wild flowers, but it can't mean a cockfight.

Of course, some people might find the term "cockfight" funny, but there are a lot of other English words including "cock" (cockpit, stopcock, ballcock, cock-a-leekie) which would also be hilariously suggestive... but talking about "rooster-pits" and "rooster-fights" sounds even funnier.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/CassioRodr3

I am a comercial pilot... Do you know the root of the word "cockpit"? It was named after the place that the "cocks" fight. So, when World War burst, the pilots were called cocks (this I don't know why). Where do de "cocks" fight? In the cock pit. Cockpit. Nowadays we are leaving this expression behind (for obvious reasons) and we start calling it "flight deck". A little bit more apropriate, right?

Thanks to share your knowlodge about the "cock" word in US university. I didn't know that...

C ya

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/le_panda
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North American here - "cock fight" is indeed the correct term! It just sounds dirty and funny :)

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ashleymews

Rooster is an American word not an English one so we would find it very strange to hear rooster fight rather than cock fight on this side of the ocean

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Zatek

@mussels I don't see what's so non kid-friendly about having words like ❤❤❤❤❤ and ❤❤❤❤❤ on the website. Should kids be sheltered from mere words? Words that are a part of common vocabulary? What a messed up moral stance. It's common enough though. Lol

Also, it's good to know what those words mean anyways, even if you don't like them, so that you know what people are talking about when they say them.

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/leeha99
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When you turn about 7 and if your in public school you know every swear in the book. So i think that knowing the words is good because you are going to anyway, as long as you dont say them

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/8r4d
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Maybe I haven't made it deep enough into the tree so this might exist already, but it seems like it might be good beta feedback for the developers... optional module(s) for curse words, swearing, or other less formal or potentially offensive language. Not only is this how real people actually talk, but educating yourself on (as in the examples from this discussion) how things like simply changing the gender of a noun could put you into an awkward situation when conversing in a non-native tongue -- this would be a very good thing.

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/dirkgently31

100% agree. If you don't want the module, fine. But it is the sort of language that is very commonly used. Just today I was told about the different words for 'mushrooms' in french (one for drug use, one for standard eating). This language is useful ,if for nothing else, to avoid situations of which you don't want to be part.

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/allburningup

Lol, like in English, when we say "shrooms", we probably don't mean chanterelles?

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/lmenus
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I quickly discovered all the vulgarisms simply by playing on the French game server. :-P

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/crasherx
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Good point! ;-) and good way how to learn all the ,,useful" native stuff :D

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jkohlman

In modern French you don't hear chienne and chatte used in their original sense much at all - it's not useful for them to be included as they can only lead the learner to make a social gaff. Would anyone teach a learner of English that ❤❤❤❤❤ and ❤❤❤❤❤ are useful words for referring to animals? Doubtful... As an addendum the only time I see ❤❤❤❤❤ non-sexually now is with "cat", as in ❤❤❤❤❤-cat. I wouldn't hear ❤❤❤❤❤ on its own (except in its usual sense!)

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/dEhiN
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That's also because ❤❤❤❤❤ referring to an actual cat, apart from the hyphenated ❤❤❤❤❤-cat, has been shortened to puss. For example, "here puss, puss, puss" while trying to call a cat over.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Jojobee
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Not in the US! We don't say puss for cat at all... Cat, kitty, or ❤❤❤❤❤-cat if we want to act a little silly...

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/pamalumps

Except in poetry. Several children's poems refer to "little ❤❤❤❤❤" meaning "little cat."

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ashleymews

❤❤❤❤❤ is not remotely rude in England and is a day to day substitute word for cat. It is a little pretentious however and mainly used by middle class older women.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/hcerwinka

This middle class older women remembers the children's story Puss 'N Boots. :)

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/maggiemccarthy55

Or for comic innuendo. Actually "❤❤❤❤❤" has two meanings here, but most people would use "❤❤❤❤❤" to mean "cat" only when talking to small children, or the cat.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DelhiDancer

Its really hard with du and le. :(

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/PERCE_NEIGE
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Du = de + le. Very easy. "De + le" doesn't exist in French, it's always "du".

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/rcassidy

in Montreal, many an awkward moment are had when someone goes to a restaurant and orders "putain" instead of "poutine"

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Berto29441
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I remember the laughter when an English woman heard "I don't like these bloody steaks", where - according the speaker's intention - "bloody" was "rare"...

2 years ago
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