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Relever

It's easy to get lost in the French language, let alone for things to get lost in translation. So many French words have multiple meanings, and often the meanings are surprisingly disparate. That makes context particularly important in the understanding of French. But what if the context itself seems to support multiple meanings? The solution is to redouble your efforts and discern the logic of the utterance as well as you can. The French appreciate the subtleties of language—and you have to pay close attention to properly parse them

The verb relever is a good example. It's made up of the verb lever (to raise) and the prefix re- (again). As a reflexive verb, se relever means to get back up (e.g., after you've fallen); as a transitive verb, relever means to stand something back up after it's fallen over (e.g., a lamp). It can also mean simply "to raise" something, including prices. (Ils ont relevé leurs prix: "They have raised their prices.") So we might easily be tempted to believe that the following, spoken by a France 2 reporter, is about a strange mission to raise the prices of food at a local supermarket:

Objectif de la matinée: relever les prix dans un magasin Carrefour.

The morning's goal is to note the prices at a Carrefour store.

Captions 5-6, Contrôle des prix alimentaires – Part 3 

The news crew, however, is not setting out to jack up the price of butter and baguettes. As you can see from the translation we have chosen, relever has other meanings, one of which is "to note" or "to survey." The morning's goal is to take note of the prices found at a Carrefour (one of the world's largest supermarket chains), not to raise them. How do we know the meaning here is "to note" rather than "to raise"? It's hard to say, but we have to apply logic and common sense—good old French rationality. It simply wouldn't make sense for the French Minister of Finance to march into a store and raise prices.

We find the verb used again in the line that follows:

Yaourt nature par seize, deux cinquante-cinq, relevé à deux quatre-vingt-cinq.

Plain yogurt sixteen-pack, two fifty-five, noted at two eighty-five.

Captions 6-7, Le Journal: Contrôle des prix alimentaires – Part 3

The speaker is using a bit of verbal shorthand. The price for a sixteen pack of plain yogurt is found to be 2.55 euros today, but it had been "noted" (relevé) in the past at a higher rate, 2.85 euros. This story is a little bit complicated: it turns out that prices on supermarket shelves were found to be considerably lower than those reported in a study of online (delivery service) supermarket prices by the French consumer magazine Soixante Millions de Consommateurs (Sixty Million Consumers).

Donc, ça signifie que les prix en grande surface sont moins élevés que ce qui a été relevé par "Soixante Millions de Consommateurs".

So that means prices in big supermarkets are lower than what was recorded by "Soixante Millions de Consommateurs."

Captions 8-9, Le Journal: Contrôle des prix alimentaires – Part 3

Once again, relever is used to indicate that information was "noted" or "recorded." A generic term for things that are recorded, in the context of an investigation such as the one conducted by the consumer magazine, is "findings." The French word for "findings" is relevés (the noun form of relever), and we find it used a few lines later in the same news report:

Et ses relevés, au moment de passer en caisse, sont l'occasion de répéter le même message...

And her findings, as she goes through checkout, provide the occasion to repeat the same message...

Captions 13-14, Le Journal: Contrôle des prix alimentaires – Part 3

If you've ever had a French bank account, you're familiar with a relevé de comptes. Here, relevé means "record." Literally, then, a relevé de comptes is a "record of accounts," better known to English speakers as a "statement."

So what have we noted today? Qu'est-ce qu'on a relevé? Certainly, you should now be familiar with some of the meanings of this intriguing word. (There's another interesting discussion of it here.) Perhaps you've also learned—or been reminded—to fully consider context before jumping to conclusions about the meaning of a word. Context, properly discerned with good common sense, is the trusty guide that can keep you from getting lost in French.

We provided you with a few things to take note of today, n'est-ce pas?

Vocabulary

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