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I'm a French-native-speaker. I'm not sure in which cases the French expression vue de l'esprit should be used, or if it should not be used. Is there any general case or rule?

For example, I have a blog post title that I'm thinking about in French as Vue de l'esprit : [a game name], because the post is about a game's drawings that drive its development. I'm not sure if I should use vue de l'esprit, mind view, or something like that.

Some people told me it's pretentious, so I may use another English expression instead, but whether to do so is not very clear to me.

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I'd say that any phrase not understandable to the majority of English speakers will be rightly viewed as pretentious.

Unfortunately, French and Latin phrases have been used by the elite in our country for years to signify erudition. Some phrases such as "C'est la vie" and "carte blanche" have retained their French identity, yet have passed into common parlance. These are acceptable.

As a native Francophone you may get a pass, but outside of an academic setting, native English speakers would be viewed as showing off by using such a phrase.

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    To which country are you referring when you say "in our country"? – kiamlaluno May 30 '11 at 17:04
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Vue de l'esprit roughly translates into English as 'view of the mind', as you said, and is not a phrase I'd expect to be readily used verbatim in English. A better word to use might be brainstorm, indicating a general outpouring of your thoughts.

Another way to express vue de l'esprit might be (in a certain context) 'figment of the imagination', which indicates that something does not exist in reality, but merely in one's mind.

  • I don't think that "brainstorm" fit exactly the idea because AFAIK it's used when you have several "brains" working together to generate ideas... right? About "figment of the imagination", translate.google.com does propose this one, but I've never read it (online or in english books), so I was not sure it was ever correct to be used. I like this one, even if it's a bit long to say. – Klaim May 30 '11 at 15:05
  • @Klaim - We don't usually use it as "figment of the imagination"; it's usually used in a personal sense: "Did you hear that noise?" "No, it was a figment of your imagination." But it is a very common phrase; the Walt Disney EPCOT Center has a ride featuring a dragon named Figment. – MT_Head May 31 '11 at 2:22
  • French for brain-storming is 'remue-méninges'. – Barrie England Mar 10 '12 at 20:02
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In general, if you want to be clearly understood and not considered pretentious, you should only use (in the course of writing, and without explanation) those French phrases which have become widely used in English. Examples include "esprit de corps" - very widely used - and "l'esprit d'escalier" - not very widely used, but used often enough that you shouldn't have to explain it.

If you use foreign words or phrase (which haven't been widely adopted into English) you should include a translation after your first use. But don't be afraid to use foreign words in general - there are many cases where English simply doesn't yet have a word that fits the case perfectly.

You'll only need to worry about seeming pretentious if you are being pretentious: using foreign or exotic words to show off that you know them, and your audience doesn't. As long as your goal is clarity, you aren't being pretentious.

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