When ‘forbidden’ doesn’t really mean it

<Photo of a public sign in France, saying 'Entry forbidden, with people entering>The sign in this photo translates roughly to “No public entry on work site”. Yes, on the left of the photo is a new building development. On the right is a picturesque view of the village of Les Plombieres les Bains in Les Vosges. Two members of the public are visible, and another four were standing in the unfinished building.

Despite the warning sign, the four people in the building were looking at plans for its completion. Normally, if you didn’t want people poking around your building site, you wouldn’t put up plans. You might even fence off the area.

But this is France, where the word “interdit“, which literally means “forbidden”, realistically means “just don’t break anything on your way through”.

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I'm a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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3 comments on “When ‘forbidden’ doesn’t really mean it
  1. Lesley says:

    Good job it doesn’t mean ‘ To Work is Forbidden in Public ‘.

  2. Rosemary K says:

    “Interdit mais toléré” (forbidden but tolerated) is what I have been hearing since I arrived in 1975! “Chantier interdit au public” also seems to mean “you can come in provided there is no one around to see you” or “if anything happens to you, our insurance won’t cover costs”.

  3. Lesley says:

    Or maybe….Singing is forbidden in public

About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced professional writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Read more...

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