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French to English translations [PRO] General / Conversation / Greetings / Letters
French term or phrase:métayer
the context is a guide to a local attraction.
Paysan, le métayer est la cheville ouvrière de l'exploitation..........
I know the word translates to "sharecropper" but feel this is not likely to mean much to the average English visitor, although it might to an American visitor, I don't know. My preferred term would be "tenant farmer" but doesn't that imply paying rent?
'"métayer" sharecropper'? By making it a compound expression, rather than putting "sharecropper" in brackets (which should be square ones if used), it implies that this is a particular type of sharecropper.
Yes it is strictly accurate given the explanation in French. and I know the rent is paid in crops, but I have seen examples of tenant farmers paying their rent entirely in crops as well. I should add that the context is also historical.
I agree that is the term usually given; but is 'métayer' being used strictly accurately here? i.e. does it really involve the specific mechanism of 'sharecropping'? If not, then you might consider 'smallholders' or 'small farmers' — as you say, 'tenant farmer' does indeed imply 'paying rent', which seems to be contradicted by the use of the term 'paysan' (again, if it is being used strictu sensu).
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Tenant on shares
Explanation: Maybe something descriptive like this phrase could fit into your text structure somehow.
"...and the slave gradually became a metayer, or tenant on shares, in name, but a laborer with indeterminate wages in fact...."
Explanation: Even if the term has historically been chiefly used in a US context, I would have thought that the concept is fairly self-explanatory and would not require a gloss or footnote of any kind for a British audience. In terms of definition it is certainly pretty close to the original French term.
What the concept was actually called in English at the time, I have no idea, but Wikipedia states that the practice was also widespread in the British Isles:
"Sharecropping occurred extensively in colonial Africa, Scotland, and Ireland and came into wide use in the Southern United States during the Reconstruction era (1865–1877)."