Does 'nouveau riche' decline when used in English?
Thread poster: Tim Drayton

Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 01:46
Turkish to English
+ ...
Nov 28, 2006

Hi. I am for the first time translating a book that is to be published and so find myself confronted by niceties of usage that would not previously have worried me with translations that were not for publication.
I want to use the expression 'nouveau riche' in my text, and find myself wondering if, in English, it should take the French plural form of 'nouveaux riches'.
The main clause of the sentence I am trying to write reads either, 'They were now the nouveau riche of Northern Cyprus' or, 'They were now the nouveaux riches of Northern Cyprus'.
Out of curiosity I also wonder if a feminine form can be used in English. In the case, say, of a women's hairdressers, should they correctly refer to, 'our nouveaux riches clients' or to, 'our nouvelles riches clients'?
I have searched on the Internet and can find conflicting examples with, for instance, 'nouveau riche' used with a plural meaning, and also a few examples where 'nouvelle riche, nouvelles riches' used as a feminine form.
I just wonder what other people feel to be correct. I have currently opted for 'nouveaux riches' as the plural form (in line with the American Hertage Dictionary).


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:46
Italian to English
+ ...
tricky one... Nov 28, 2006

but I'm not entirely sure I'd keep the agreement in this case, mainly because in English "the rich" is/are invariable. I'm not an expert, however...

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Kim Metzger  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 17:46
German to English
Examples from well-edited publications Nov 28, 2006

BBC
Serbia's nouveaux riches

The nouveaux riches like to flaunt their money, but they do not want to discuss where it came from.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/633920.stm

The Economist
Or take Mr Wolfe's last-but-one novel, “A Man in Full” (1998). The book opens with a lavish description of a quail hunt among the Georgia nouveaux riches.

http://www.economist.com/World/na/displayStory.cfm?story_id=6800760

The New Yorker

Like a typographical vision, Coty appears to his followers only sidewise and in print. With that clannishness that marks the French nouveaux riches, the few friends to whom he appears in the flesh brag freely of the meetings but guardedly refrain from quoting what, if anything, might have been said.

http://www.newyorker.com/printables/archive/050314fr_archive01

The New York Review of Books

Bush-and-Rove enlarged this insight by an order of magnitude. They acted on the premise that America was prodigiously insecure. As an empire, we are nouveaux riches. We look to overcome the uneasiness implicit in this condition by amassing mega-money.

http://www.hereinstead.com/NYReviewOfBooks-ELECTION-2004.htm



[Edited at 2006-11-28 19:06]


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Timothy Barton
Local time: 23:46
Member (2006)
French to English
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Yes Nov 28, 2006

If you use a French phrase, use the French plural. Same as "grands prix". The fact "rich" is invariable is irrelevant, since you are using "riche" not "riches".

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Walter Landesman  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 19:46
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
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KUDOZ Nov 29, 2006

I think you should post this question as a Kudoz question in the English/English pair.

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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:46
Italian to English
+ ...
Not disagreeing with you, but... Nov 30, 2006

Timothy Barton wrote:

If you use a French phrase, use the French plural. Same as "grands prix". The fact "rich" is invariable is irrelevant, since you are using "riche" not "riches".


... We're not consistent in this - we may go as far as "blonde woman", but when have you ever seen "blondes women"? Or any use of "brava" or "bravi" or "brave" - it's invariably "bravo".

If in this case the plural is used, then all well and good - but it's not an invariable rule. Or do you think the fact that it's a phrase rather than just a word that makes the difference?


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Veronica Coquard
France
Local time: 00:46
French to English
Reminds me of Villa Incognito Dec 22, 2006

I just finished reading Tom Robbins' Villa Incognito, where he spends a good paragraph justifying the combination of two mismatched foreign words, which are only recognizable in English by retaining their respectively feminine and masculine variations. He finally decides that, since the two words have been fully integrated into the English language, and since in English there is no rule for "declining" as you say, or "according" as we say in French... Villa Incognito is a fully anglicized, viable name.

In your place, and as a French speaker, I would leave the phrase in the singular and keep it in italics as you have done.

I also urge you not to use "nouvelles riches" even when talking exclusively about women, because the expression formed by the two words is best understood in the masculine form, even in French.

Good luck!


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Katherine Zei  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 17:46
Italian to English
+ ...
depends on how well known and used phrase is Feb 12, 2007

Inkling wrote:

because the expression formed by the two words is best understood in the masculine form, even in French.



Inkling brought up a good point, one that I would take into consideration.

For very well known expressions--like nouveau riche--I would decline the expression.

For less well known, I would not, since you might lose some of the recognition factor.

For the record, it drives me crazy when I hear people crying "bravo" to a soprano at an opera in London.

See what the Economist says about it. I think they have something that discusses this issue in their Style Guide.

http://www.economist.com/research/StyleGuide


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Richard Benham  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 00:46
German to English
+ ...
But isn’t <i>soprano</i> masculine? Apr 14, 2007

I’d tend to use nouveaux riches as a noun in the plural, and leave it invariable as an adjective. Most English speakers (especially, but not only, outside the UK) have a pretty poor grasp, if any, of French. So nouvelles riches is not likely to appeal to anyone.

According to my dictionary, nouveau is used “Avec une valeur d’adj., mais variable devant les adj. et les p. passés pris comme noms&rdquo, and it actually gives nouveaux riches as an example, which is all very fine until you think about nouveau-né, where nouveau is supposed to be invariable. With inconsistencies like this, how are non-linguist non-natives supposed to cope? (I’d point out that French-speaking natives seem to be among the worst at complying with the “official” rules of their own language....)

And what to we do about tête-à-tête in the plural in English? I had to laugh at the woman who wanted to call them têtes-à-tête, but really it is hard to explain to the non-specialist why it is invariant in French. I prefer to avoid Gallicisms in English, and vice versa (although I haven’t got around to declaring war on Latinisms), and if called upon to use the word in the plural in English, I would probably write tête-à-têtes.


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Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 01:46
Turkish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Postscript Apr 15, 2007

Just as a postscript, an experienced editor has worked on my text and made large numbers of alterations. However, s/he left nouveaux riches unaltered.

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lestertrad
Local time: 00:46
French to English
+ ...
Brava ! Oct 6, 2010


For the record, it drives me crazy when I hear people crying "bravo" to a soprano at an opera in London.


I agree, but I've always hesitated to do it for fear of being considered a horse's *ss. Thanks!


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