7

Truculent's meaning in English is:

  1. Disposed or eager to fight or engage in hostile opposition; belligerent.
  2. Showing or expressing bitter opposition or hostility; aggressively defiant: a truculent speech against the new government; a truculent glance.
  3. Disposed to violence; ferocious or cruel.

However the French meaning of the exact same word is:

[langue] "colourful (Brit)", "colorful (US)"

Or as google says:

Pittoresque, comique.

"Le capitaine Haddock est un personnage truculent de Hergé."

It seems the English meaning of the word is more closely related to its etymology:

1530s, from Latin truculentus "fierce, savage, stern, harsh, cruel," from trux (genitive trucis) "fierce, rough, savage, wild." Related: Truculently.

Therefore, I would like to understand why in French its meaning is so different.

  • There are many words which are "faux ami" between french and english. (see examples) – Random Sep 3 '15 at 12:23
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Il y a deux sens pour Truculent :

  • Le sens vieilli (exprimé en A) qui correspond au sens que l'anglais conserve. On remplace ce mot maintenant par terrible, farouche

  • L'évolution contemporaine (exprimé en B, connue dès 1872 [haut en couleur, qui réjouit par ses excès] est devenue usuelle à partir de 1920). Elle concerne les hommes, les œuvres ou les expressions verbales qui ont transposé la cruauté, la sauvagerie, la rudesse en exagération, vigueur gaillarde, agitation originale, excès savoureux ; synonyme : pittoresque.


Sources : CNRTL.fr et le petit Robert.

  • Merci! So "truculant" has both meanings in French: the etymological one and the one that was a result of the contemporary evolution of the word... However, nowadays it works more like a compliment than a criticism in French, correct? – Armfoot Sep 3 '15 at 11:23
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    Pas tout à fait un compliment, plutôt la reconnaissance d'une particularité, d'une vivacité, d'une 'saveur' de la vie, d'une énergie qui n'est jamais vulgaire, même si elle peut être gaillarde (relative à un Éros dionysiaque), il a pour synonyme pittoresque. Le sens vieilli n'est plus connu de nos jours (sauf par quelques érudits), si le mot n'est pas laissés dans sa phrase d'origine, on ne peut retrouver cet ancien sens, et pour cet ancien contexte on emploiera maintenant farouche, terrible. – cl-r Rendez confiance à FL Sep 3 '15 at 11:54
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    Oh... That's why they used captain Haddock as an example. He is truculent because of his particular vivacity or "colorfulness" in his life (which is implicitly given by his fierce nature). And yes, perhaps calling that a compliment would be too far fetched. Very nice explanation, merci beaucoup! – Armfoot Sep 3 '15 at 13:09
  • @Armfoot Exactement le bon exemple qui ne m'est pas venu à l'esprit :) . – cl-r Rendez confiance à FL Sep 3 '15 at 13:18
  • That's typically the kind of thing you don't know if it will be taken as a compliment or a ctiticism. That said, I always hear it used in a rather positive state of mind, there are many other words you can use to express a more negative idea – Laurent S. Sep 3 '15 at 13:32
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J'ajouterais volontiers l'exemple de Falstaff, personnage de Shakespeare si magnifiquement mis en scène et en musique dans l'opéra homonyme de Verdi. La crainte de ses excès rejoint en permanence la fascination pour son côté jovial et bon vivant. À cheval sur les cultures latine et anglo-saxonne, il incarne pour moi toute l'ambigüité du terme "truculence"...

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    Though a very interesting example, this does not answer the question. Maybe it would be better as a comment? – Chop Sep 4 '15 at 5:22

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