It’s a remarkable feat. I’ve been in France for over six years and never once have I been tempted to look up the direct translation of brassiere (or ‘bra’ if you prefer). This was because I had assumed that ‘brassiere’ was itself a French word and therefore must mean the same thing. Not so.
In paying attention to the audio track of a TV spot for said undergarment last night (for which I usually focus my visual senses) I heard no such word. I was shocked. How could my French lingerie* vocab be so incomplete? Bra. Any school boy would have know the translation within fifteen seconds of having landed in France. Not I.
This is what comes of bringing your lover with you to the land of romance. If I had come as a single man – I would have picked up this sort of thing tout de suite (and taken off several too given half a chance).
A French brassière is also a supporting undergarment but it is not designed to separate les seins. The word we seek is le soutien-gorge (yes, it’s masculine) literally meaning throat-support or gorge-support; gorge as in cleavage.
So there you have it gentlemen: a brassiere is yet another false friend; however I suspect you already knew that to be the case?
NB: in Quebec they use brassiere to mean soutien-gorge
*another false friend – meaning ‘linen’ in French.