5

Can the word 'motorist' also mean 'engine manufacturer' ? The dictionaries I have consulted define motorist only as the one who drives an automotive vehicle. I've seen the word used in a tagline (supposedly proofed by an english linguist) that makes sense only if 'motorist' means 'engine manufacturer'. So, I wonder whether it's a bad translation from a tagline in another language (would be french, in which "motoriste" means "engine manufacturer") or not.

In response to a comment asking for the tagline, it is [company name], the motorist of time, and the company in question manufactures mechanical watch movements. In my opinion, [company name], the engine maker of time makes sense for such a company (as well as its french version, ..., le motoriste du temps), whereas ..., the car driver of time sounds funny, if motorist does indeed only mean car driver. I wonder how a native english speaker understands the tagline.

closed as off-topic by FumbleFingers, DJClayworth, tchrist, Edwin Ashworth, Mitch Oct 24 '15 at 22:43

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 2
    I suspect that your suspicion is correct. "Motorist" means "one who operates a motor vehicle"; it has no sense meaning "one who manufactures motors". – Hellion Oct 21 '15 at 16:14
  • 1
    I have never ever seen "motorist" used to mean "engine manufacturer". – Hot Licks Oct 21 '15 at 16:20
  • The tagline could be some kind of joke or pun. Could you add it to your question? – Kevin Krumwiede Oct 22 '15 at 1:39
17

The problem smelled of a French to English howler the moment I started reading, and before I got to the last line.

So many French words look easy to translate into English but mean something different or are nuanced differently.

In England they eat eggs and lard for breakfast is a classic schoolboy mistranslation. Lard is the French for bacon, whilst in English it is the animal fat that is used for cooking.

Anyway the Oxford Hachette French - English Dictionary defines motoriste as engine builder or mechanic.

In English a motorist is someone who drives a car.

  • 3
    It can be as problematical going from English to French. I remember as a very young adult, sitting at dinner with a French family who offered me more food to eat. When I replied merci, je suis plein literally thankyou but I'm full it caused hoots of laughter, and I was red-faced with embarrassment when I was told it was a rather crude way (only used with animals) of saying I'm pregnant. – WS2 Oct 21 '15 at 16:46
  • 1
    On a school trip to Germany, one of the Americans picked up a gift in the airport for their host family prominently labeled "Gift Pack" -- or, when interpreted as German, a "Poison Bundle." – rrauenza Oct 21 '15 at 18:22
  • As mentioned by WS2, motoriste is a good example of "false friend". In French, the only meaning of motoriste is engine manufacturer. When you look at examples in context provided by French-English translation dictionaries, the only translation of motoriste is engine manufacturer. – Graffito Oct 21 '15 at 19:37
  • The Académie française are probably still regretting the demise of steam-powered cars, and having to change French chauffeurs into the Americanized automobilistes. – alephzero Oct 21 '15 at 20:34

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.