Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Can I Make a Suggestion?

This isn't a great photo but it's a great idea. Actually it's a box of ideas, otherwise known as a suggestion box. I spotted this one on a street corner in Garches, one of Paris's western suburbs, a quiet place that doesn't make the news often except for a mention recently as the location of the hospital where Gerard Depardieu's son died. The message on the side invites passersby to offer their ideas but makes no promise about the outcome.

I'm not sure why "proposer" gets more use in this context than "suggérer." Perhaps it is more polite. But suffice it to say, that the French appear to propose a lot more than they suggest, even though the Roberts Collins dictionary makes no distinction. Anyone with a better grasp of the French language, please weigh in.

I wonder what the residents of Garches have been proposing anyway. More frequent trains to Paris? Market day on Wednesday instead of Thursday? Lower fees for parking? Guess I'll never know.


Isabelle said...

The difference is very subbtle, Anne!
They mean the same thing, the only slight difference that I can think of is that I wouldn't "suggère" someone to write down his ideas, but "propose". I don' know if I'm very clear lol

Mrs C said...

I just asked two frenchies in the office. They asked to hear the sentence first. Their comment was that "Proposez-nous" sounds better than "Suggerez-nous" (both of them made a face when I suggested using "suggerer" in the sentence instead). In other words, it depends on the sentence.

I think there is a subtlety in the language that cannot often be defined and because as anglophones who would use suggested in this instance rather than proposed (because proposed only applies to marriage in our heads).

If I were to suggest a distinction however, I would say that if you use "Proposer" it is because you want brainstormy sorts of things, airy fairy, whatever you like and suggest is used more when you want something cut and dried from the person you are asking: "Vous suggèrez....?...."

But really, it just isn't used as much as proposer which is, as the frenchies said, "plus fin".

Anne said...

Very's the nuances in the French language that are going to kill me. I sometimes ask my French teacher questions like these and she'll say both options out loud, weigh them back and forth in her mind, and then pronounce one "plus jolie." It all sounds jolie to me!

Mrs C said...

you'll get to the point where one sounds nicer than the other. Even before asking the frenchies I could tell that suggèrer sounded wrong in this instance and that there wouldn't be a real reason for that, but then after 11 years, if I haven't mastered a couple of subtleties by now, I might as well just go home to Canada.

Jonathan Hayes said...

I think that the difference between the two is that "suggerer" is more direct, almost forceful, whereas "proposer" is gentler, discrete and respectful, implying that the outcome is less certain.

Anonymous said...

hello anne, still hoping you'll write back - i think we have so much in common and i just love your blog - would so love to meet you. my e-mail is elizabeth

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