Chateau or castle?

Jun 20th, 2012, 11:49 AM
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Chateau or castle?

My justification for asking this question here is to improve the quality of information provided to English language speakers coming to France - or at least to the Dordogne.

Instead of running our village brochure through a translation site, and coming up with something illegible, our local village association asked me to translate it. I did, but they have come back with a question.

Carlux is built around the ruins of a 12th century chateau. Or at least that's what I always say, and that's what I wrote. But, my French friends said, 'Why dont you say 'castle?'

For some reason I have never thought of it as a 'castle', which to me brings to mind British castles. Because we are in France, I think of it as a 'chateau'. However, I've now been here 18 years, and am no longer a typical English speaker.

So, my question is, as someone visiting France, would you expect to find a brochure saying that we have a castle, or a chateau? My feeling is that everyone knows what a chateau is, but if people would prefer to see it described as a castle, we can change the wording. (I just checked Wikipedia, which says that 'The chateau de Beynac is a castle situated...)

Any preferences?
Carlux is offline  
Jun 20th, 2012, 11:56 AM
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Carlux - what an interesting question.

honestly, i don't think it matters. Chateau has a certain cachet [excuse my french!] in english that castle doesn't, and Michelin clearly agree as their english language guide to the Loire is called "Chateaux of the Loire" not Castles. OTOH chateau is definitely a french word, whereas Castle isn't.

I'd use whichever you feel most comfortable with.
annhig is offline  
Jun 20th, 2012, 12:02 PM
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Both "chateau" and "castle" have the same root: the Latin "castellum", which became "castel" in old French and later "chateau".

The more educated English-speaking people will understand "chateau" which sounds a bit more cosmopolitan. For the less-educated ones, "castle" will be more understandable.
traveller1959 is offline  
Jun 20th, 2012, 12:02 PM
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I would expect it to say château, but my perspective might be warped as well.
StCirq is online now  
Jun 20th, 2012, 12:03 PM
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I have a skewed view from living in France for so long, but I think that such places should be known as a château as well, just as I always write "châteaux" for the plural while I often see people meaning well who pluralize it as "chateaus."

Nevertheless, I think that France has earned certain inalienable terminology rights for a number of its sites and while the term 'castle' does not raise my hackles in all cases ("Chambord is a beautiful castle" does not horrify me.), there are a certain number of other things that I have seen that I do find intolerable, such as "Mount Saint Michael" or "Strasburg."

I know that I am on shaky ground here, since when talking about Belgium, I prefer to write Bruges, Ypres or Ostende rather than Brugge, Ieper or Oostende -- but 'translating' city names is not quite the same as not translating the names of famous tourist sites such as the Vieux Port of Marseille or Sacré Coeur (Sacred Heart) in Paris.
kerouac is online now  
Jun 20th, 2012, 12:16 PM
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If your audience is American tourists, castle probably does a better job of conjuring up what they are going to see in Carlux. I think that most Americans associate the term "castle" with an image of fortified defensive walls surrounding a central keep, whereas, the meaning of chateau is a little bit more ambiguous. Certainly, what you see in Carlux is different from the grand houses that you see in the Loire.

I spent a week last year in a house adjacent to the Chateau de Beynac, but whenever I showed photos of this site to my friends, they talk about how cool it must have been to stay next to a castle. Chateau in the American mind probably conjures up something more like Chambord.
twk is offline  
Jun 20th, 2012, 12:17 PM
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I'm a perfect person to answer this as I'm an American and pretty much a rube when it comes to all things French.

I think of castle and château as interchangeable and would probably say "castle" (to another American) as to not sound as though I were putting on airs.
LSky is offline  
Jun 20th, 2012, 12:30 PM
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I think castle would be the correct translation, obviously, but in fact, I think most people know the word chateau and are kind of expecting it in France. So I think leaving that word in the French is fine.
Christina is offline  
Jun 20th, 2012, 12:46 PM
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I agree with the Chateau voters. I think if someone is traveling from an Anglophone country to France, they will have either heard of Chateaux or read about them in Guide Books.

I would be a bit put off by 'Castle' for France, and would think of England or Ireland.
MarnieWDC is offline  
Jun 20th, 2012, 01:31 PM
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Medieval fortress.
FrenchMystiqueTours is offline  
Jun 20th, 2012, 01:34 PM
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could you throw "castle" into the text somewhere to help any one who isn't familiar with the word Chateau?
annhig is offline  
Jun 20th, 2012, 01:43 PM
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I would certainly NOT consider a chateau to be the same as a "castle." A chateau, even if incorrect, conjures up the idea of some sort of grand house or home whereas a castle seems to be, as someone above has said so well, something with perhaps a moat, a drawbridge, etc., or at least some variation on that theme.

Whether you like it or not I suspect a great many people from the US when they hear the term "castle" they think of the representation by Disney and it doesn't exactly look like Chenonceau.
Dukey1 is offline  
Jun 20th, 2012, 01:49 PM
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As any residential structure of the 12th century of this type would probably be referred to in French as a château fort, I believe medieval fortress, as FrenchMystique suggests, would be the best translation. The term offers a clear distinction between structures of the Middle Ages built for defense and those built for grandeur beginning during the Renaissance, such as those of the Loire Valley.
Sarastro is offline  
Jun 20th, 2012, 02:00 PM
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Speaking purely as a copywriter, I'd keep it at "château". It just sounds better to me.
mr_go is offline  
Jun 20th, 2012, 02:12 PM
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I think Sarastro is on the right track. Perhaps you refer to the chateau by its proper name, but include a parenthetical reference like (12th century medieval fortress). Just saying chateau doesn't convey as much information.
twk is offline  
Jun 20th, 2012, 02:29 PM
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I imagine that it would muddy the water to ask what all of us call such a building if it is in Germany or Italy?

Logic tells me that since I use the word 'castle' in those countries, I would have to accept it for France as well.
kerouac is online now  
Jun 20th, 2012, 03:01 PM
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Not knowing Carlux, I googled and found this:

It combines FMT's and Ann's advice: fortress with the word castle worked into the text. Looks to me like a good solution.

[Mind you, the site also tells us that the fortress was "destructed".]
Padraig is offline  
Jun 20th, 2012, 03:09 PM
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My romance doesn't need a castle rising in Spain....
Chateau ... 12 th century fortress... Really DOES fit the description of the sites I've visited in France.
In England, I sort of think of them as palaces, and actually, that is what I would call Versailles. Except out in the country, aren't they just grand country houses (in England).

I think it probably can be said either way.
uhoh_busted is offline  
Jun 20th, 2012, 04:51 PM
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IMHO a "castle" was or is a fortified building built primarily for defensive military purposes and usually before 1550 or so - and was designed to be a self-supporting community under seige.

A "chateaux" is a pleasure palace - usually built from 1500 or so on - not for military purposes but to provide a places for aristocrats to enjoy themselves in the county - and was designed for beauty with lovely gardens, lakes, and long views over pretty countryside.

What you are talking about seems to be a castle.

Caveat - this info is correct but the average tourist probably won't know.
nytraveler is offline  
Jun 20th, 2012, 07:54 PM
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My thinking is exactly the opposite of nytraver's. I think of a castle as a pleasure palace and a château as a fortified building built, as so many in the Dordogne were, for military purposes.
StCirq is online now  

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