Last week we talked about people you know. This week we'll look at terms that French has given us to name various sorts of people you might know.
chevalier d'industrie – one who lives by his wits, specially by swindling [lit. "knight of industry"]
Our second quote is of a chevalier d'industrie who worked on a grand scale: he cornered the market in dice.
– Robert Darnton, George Washington's False Teeth: An Unconventional Guide to the Eighteenth Century
… in 16th-century London false dice could readily be obtained … . The labour of good professionals, though, was always at a premium. … Poor manufacture was easily detected. … shaved dice were "made always proportionable to the Impudence of the Operator; for you must know, there are some made so very strong, that you may discover them as soon as put upon the Table; a modest Man takes more Caution."
. . .One of the most impudent operators was an Italian advantage player named Pimentel, who enjoyed great success in France during the reign of Henry IV. The court was in the midst of a veritable gambling craze, and it was rumoured that Pimentel's good fortune was sanctioned at the highest level, the King believing that the impoverishment of his courtiers strengthened the monarchy. Pimentel managed to purchase the entire stock of dice in Paris, and he then had an accomplice provide a new shipment at unusually low prices. The merchants and eventually the gamesters who purchased the dice became unwitting accomplices of the Italian: they did not realise that every cube had been doctored to his specifications. There was scarcely a game in Paris that did not play into the hands of this chevalier d'industrie.
– Rosamund Purcell, The Secret Life of Dice, The Independent, (London), Apr. 8, 2001
femme fatale – 1. a seductive woman who lures men into dangerous or compromising situations 2. an alluring, mysterious woman of charm and mystery
[French: woman + fatal, deadly]
– Elaine Viets, High Heels are Murder: Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper
From Wikipedia --
An éminence grise (French for "grey eminence") is a powerful advisor or decision-maker who operates secretly or unofficially. This phrase originally referred to François Leclerc du Tremblay the right-hand man of Cardinal Richelieu the Red Eminence. Leclerc was a Capuchin friar who wore grey robes. The phrase "His Eminence" is used to describe a Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church, although Leclerc du Tremblay never achieved that rank.
There are some other kinds of women?
quote: Leclerc was a Capuchin friar who wore grey robes.
I thought cappuccino was so named because it resembled the color of the Capuchins' robes. That in turn lead me to believe that their robes were light brown. Was Leclerc exceptional, or was I misled by cappuccino?
I read one just today, though I won't mention whom this phrase was describing because I like her. However, they called a woman whom we all know and love (as my mother would say) a "ditsy poseur."
Let us not forget the ever popular ingenue.
[French, feminine of ingénu, guileless, from Latin ingenuus, ingenuous]
Cerebroplegia--the cure is within our grasp
enfant terrible – one who is strikingly, shockingly unconventional (often, one who embarasses or compromises his associates by being so; see last two quotes)
[French, "terrible child"]
– Ted Libbey, The NPR Guide to Building a Classical CD Collection
Belgium's Prince Laurent, known as the enfant terrible of the royal family, is to marry … in April.
– BBC News, Dec. 19, 2002
Goldschmidt, as an enfant terrible, clearly enjoyed the fuss that he had engendered: "I certainly had struck a hornet's nest. … This time I was not only crazy but almost a criminal."
– Stephen Jay Gould, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory
Today's term, though very uncommon, would seem very useful. It's also a striking image, literally meaning 'rabid sheep'.
mouton enragé – a normally calm person who has suddenly become enraged or violent
– Times Lit. Suppl. Oct. 27, 1932 [credit OED for quote]
At the first signs of such oppositition … the whole flock of party sheep will be in full cry upon our track. The ferocity of the mouton enragé is proverbial; and we shall be treated to the same rancor, spleen, and bile …
– George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wilshire, Fabian Essays in Socialism
bon vivant – a person indulging in a sociable and luxurious lifestyle, especially one who enjoys superb food and drink
[French; literally,'good liver']
– Tom Clancy, Without Remorse
… the new pope [Leo X, 1513-1521] was a hedonist. … All the care of Lorenzo the Magnificent for the education and advancement of the cleverest of his sons had produced a cultivated bon vivant devoted to fostering art and culture and the gratification of his tastes, with as little concern for cost as if the source of funds were some self-filling magic cornucopia.
– Barbara W. Tuchman, The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam
The idea of hedonism inspires me to dredge this up from my secret storehouse of assorted recreational paraphrases ...
"And the People asked the Prophet, 'How would it be for you to speak to us about Hedonism?'
And the Prophet, smiling, said, 'It would be a pleasure.'"
éminence grisé – 1. an adviser or decision-maker (often secret) with great power beyond any official status; one who wields real though not titular control; a "power behind the throne" 2. a respected elder statesman
[French for 'gray (shadowy) power'. Originally applied to Père Joseph (1577-1638), confidential agent of Cardinal Richelieu, who wore a grey cloak over his monk habit (contrast the red robes of the Cardinal, éminence rouge). I suspect that the "elder statesman" sense evolved from a misunderstanding of what was meant by 'gray'.]
– Katharine Graham, Personal History. [Graham's wikipedia article says she "cultivated Warren Buffett for his financial advice; he became ... something of an eminence grise in the company."]
So in writing this book I must acknowledge a great debt to the wisdom and experience of my 70-year-old grant review chairman, James Birren, éminence grisé of the science of gerontology.
– George E. Vaillant, Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life
idiot savant – a mentally handicapped person who displays brilliance in a specific area, especially one involving memory
[French, 'knowledgeable idiot']
So say the dictionaries. An example would be a person who, though profoundly retarded, can play any piece on the piano upon hearing it once. But in practice the term is extended to less extreme cases: a normal (not idiotic) person with a notable (though not necessarily mind-boggling) talent in one area. See last quote.
– Daijiworld.com, India, Mar. 28, 2007
he could handle it the way certain idiots savants can multiply and divide seven-digit numbers in their heads.
– Stephen King, The Stand
Chris Rock is a comedy idiot savant: brilliant at stand-up; really, really bad at everything else.
– Santa Fe Reporter, Mar. 14, 2007