Today's language rant involves the confusing and (to my anglophonic mind) illogical double meanings that many French words can have. While I understand, for example, that in English 'pet' can mean both a domesticated animal companion and what you do to them to show them affection, I can see a sense of connection between these two definitions. Likewise for 'cook'. One meaning is the action of (in my case) burning perfectly good food before eating it. The other is the name of the person who performs this function. These two definitions are again logically linked in my mind.
French Oddity #1: entretenir
I've always understood this word to mean 'maintenance.' If we break it into its roots, we get entre which carries the sense of 'between' or 'among' and tenir which denotes supporting, keeping or holding. Therefore, entretenir = 'among support' ~= 'maintenance.' It's not a clean translation into English but it's clean enough to understand the logic behind it.
This word also means 'conversation.' WTF? How are these two senses linked? They're not. Just accept it.
French Oddity #2: se passer
This pronominal verb is always used to ask questions such as qu'est-ce qui se passe? or 'what's happened?' (Literally: what is it that has passed by?) The denotative meaning centres around ideas of that which passes by or that which has occurred. Adding a de (of) to the end changes things completely. I would have imagined that this little particle carries the sense of 'about' as it does elsewhere in the language. Thus qu'est ce-que se passer de XXX? should mean 'What happened about/with XXX?'
Does it? Of course not. Se passer de is completely idiomatic and means 'to do without.' WTF?
OK. So it's odd but now we know we can always recognise it and compense, right?
You really are new at this, aren't you.
Usually, the de is hidden behind the demonstrative pronoun en (of it) in the formation s'en passer, which makes it next to impossible to spot.
All this goes to explain my confusion when watching ads for Tefal cookware during the French Film Festival. Their slogan is Comment s'en passer?. I couldn't understand why they would use 'by what means does it go past?' as a corporate slogan. To me, that sounded like the slogan of a transport company. It was only when the idiomatic rubbish above was explained to me that I could understand the English translation of the slogan: 'can't live without it' (literally: how to do without it?)
And people have the temerity to call English difficult to learn!