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Lead Pipes And Clogged Drains – Plumbing In French Posted by on Jan 10, 2018 in Vocabulary

Le déménagement (moving) is never the end of living somewhere new. There are always small problems that often require specific hardware or un bricoleur (a handyman).

Image by Rex Barbeira on Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

I recently had to deal with un tuyau bouché (a clogged pipe) in mon nouvel apartement (my new apartment), and while cleaning up the initial flooding was annoying, learning all the new words related to les tuyaux (pipes) made me realize something about the English word plumber.

Ever since I first saw the periodic table, I was confused by how the elemental symbol for lead was Pb.

Image by John Bauer.

I vaguely remember learning that it had something to do with le latin, but when I was au collège (in middle school), I didn’t care too much and just memorized the symbol for l’examen (the test).

When it came time to hire un plombier (a plumber) those middle school memories came back to me as I noticed how both the English and French words are based on le plomb (lead).

This connection with le plomb not only made the periodic symbol instantly make more sense, but also shows a bit of the Roman history of la langue (the language)!

Un plombier est quelqu’un qui travaille le plombe !
A plumber is someone who works on lead!

It’s been a long time since le plomb was used for les tuyaux, but it’s cool to see how history hides itself in the origin of words.

Voici un vocabulaire des tuyaux : 

Image by Dwilliams851 on Flickr. Licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Pipe – Le tuyau
Drain – La canalisation
Clog – Le bouchon
Clogged (adj) – Bouché, obstrué, engorgé
Clogged Pipe – Le tuyau bouché/obstrué/engorgé
Clogged Drain – La canalisation bouchée/obstruée/engorgée
Plumber – Le plombier
Lead – Le plomb
Handyman – Le bricoleur, L’homme à tout faire
Plumbing (job) – La plomberie
Plumbing (infrastructure) – La tuyauterie, la plomberie
Kitchen Sink – L’évier
Bathroom Sink – Le lavabo
Faucet – Le robinet
Shower – La douche
Plunger – La ventouse
Snake (plumbing device) – Le furet
Flooding – L’inondation

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About the Author:John Bauer

John Bauer is an enthusiast for all things language and travel. He currently lives in France where he's doing his Master's. John came to France four years ago knowing nothing about the language or the country, but through all the mistakes over the years, he's started figuring things out.