First attempts might be tentative, but second attempts, less so

The paper that I’m going to give in France is about suicide notes.  The work that it describes is part of a project to try to train computers to predict which adolescents in the Emergency Room for a suicide attempt will make a second attempt.  This is important because second attempts are more likely to be fatal than first attempts.  (There’s a whole theory about why this is, related to the notion that self-injury is a learned behavior.  More on this in another post, perhaps.)

To prepare my talk, I need to know how to say “attempt” in French.  This is tough, because there are a number of false cognates and similar-sounding words that get involved.  The bottom line is that the word for “attempt” is la tentative (singular feminine noun).  It comes from the verb tenter, which means to try or to attempt.  (It has other meanings, too–to tempt, attract, encourage, or entice.)

Is there a way to say “tentative” in French?  Of course–see below for a bunch.  And, there are French words that look/sound like “attempt”–attent, and attentat.  Of course, they don’t mean anything like “attempt”–more false cognates.

  • la tentative: an attempt, a try.
    • la tentative de meurtre: murder attempt, attempt on someone’s life.
    • la tentative de suicide: suicide attempt, attempted suicide.
  • une attente: wait, waiting, waiting time; expectation.
  • un attentat: attack, bombing, assassination attempt; offense, outrage.
  • provisoire, expérimentale: tentative, in the sense of not committed.
  • timide, indécis, hésitant: tentative, in the sense of a thought, idea, or person.

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