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This week's theme is in Safi's hono(u)r.

je ne sais quois: something that cannot be adequately described or expressed.
circa 1656; literally, I know not what (pronunciation: zh&-n&-"sA-'kwä)(M-W)
quote:
BRITISH FIRM Pace Micro made a loss of £34.8 million on the year, compared to a profit last year of £24.5 million because the British market in set top boxes went through a "je ne sais quois" mode.
--Mike Magee, performing deep and cogent analysis in The Inquirer, 08 July 2002
 
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What a wonderful thread! big grin
Do you or Safi, however, have any hints for correct pronunciation of French words for people, like me, who have never taken French? I took Spanish and really wish I had taken French instead, just for the sake of correct pronunciation. I am even self-conscious when saying, "croissant"
 
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My son was taking high school French at the same time I had a job where I frequently had to call a major corporation in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. I had him teach me how to nicely and properly ask for the woman my boss needed to speak with, in French. I had it down pat! Now comes the time for the phone call....

In my best French I made the call..."Good afternoon, may I please speak to Miss Ledieux". The voice on the other end of the phone said something, and there was dead silence. I expected to hear it click over to another line, and ring to her office! Then I would speak in English to her as always. But there was absolute dead silence for the longest five seconds I have ever endured.

I finally said in my not so suave English, "OK, you got me! I don't speak a word of French and truly haven't a clue as to what you said!"

Her reply? "You reached me. I answer my own phone!" We both laughed...me till the tears started streaming down my face, and then I passed the phone off to my boss who had asked me to place the call.

Never again, will I try to pass myself off as speaking French. (Or any other language for that matter!) big grin
 
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Morgan, what a hoot! My story is about German & not French, but I did a similar thing once. I had to call a physician at a hospital in Germany to ask his permission to use a research tool in my study. I kept asking for the doctor, but no one spoke English. Finally, they put me thru to someone who spoke English--and she informed me that it was 2:00 a. m. there! I felt like such a fool, though they thought is was terribly funny! big grin
 
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savoir faire: capacity for appropriate action; especially: a polished sureness in social behavior
1815; literally, knowing how to do (pronunciation: "sav-"wär-'far, -'fer) (M-W)
quote:
I’m taking only my toque blanche and my savoir-faire.
--Philippe Gaertner, chef; comment on his departure for NYC as one of the 22 French chefs chosen to cook during Statue of Liberty’s centennial celebration

Simplicity is a pleasant thing in children, or at any age, but it is not necessarily admirable, nor is affectation altogether a thing of evil. To be normal, to be at home in the world, with a prospect of power, usefulness, or success, the person must have that imaginative insight into other minds that underlies tact and savoir-faire morality and beneficence. This insight involves sophistication, some understanding and sharing of the clandestine impulses of human nature. A simplicity that is merely the lack of this insight indicates a sort of defect.
--Charles Horton Cooley, U.S. sociologist (1902)
 
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bon mot: a clever remark; witticism
circa 1730; literally, good word. (M-W) (pronunciation bOn-'mO)
quote:
the wisecrack is to American culture what the bon mot is to British culture. Both are supposed to be amusing; both are aphoristic; both are a kind of protective posturing. The bon mot demonstrates how entirely at home within the culture the speaker is; it is designed to amuse a roomful of spectators. The wisecrack is the wit of the outsider; it is designed to amuse no one but himself. The wiseacre is a loner, contemptuous of his milieu, on the outside of the corrupt culture by choice. His wisecrack is an announcement of independence.
-- Jon Carroll, in Salon web-magazine, August 5, 1997
 
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Speaking of French words in English, I have a question about the pronunciation of French words in English. I've noticed that many French origin words (most of which have been naturalized) have a different pronunciation in British and American English. For instance, the British say non-cHA-lant and the Americans say non-cha-LANT. The British say GA-rage and the Americans ga-RAGE. THe American pronunciation is closer to the French, but a British friend of mine has told me that Brits consider the American pronunciation affected and silly. I wonder what the reason is for the difference in the pronunciation of these words and whether the Brits do indeed consider the American pronunciation affected. arnie? safi? anyone?
 
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Well, Brits tend to have a healthy distrust of anyone who attempts to "show off". Those who try to display their learning ostentatiously tend to get short shrift. That would apply to the habit of some people to pronounce well-known words that happen to come from French with a French accent, saying, in effect, "Look at me! I know French!".

I don't know why American pronunciation should be closer to the original French, but it might be because places such as Louisiana and the areas near French Canada were originally colonised by the French and retained large numbers of francophones after the introduction of English as the main tongue.

I can't say I have particularly noticed this closeness between French and American pronunciation myself, however.
 
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I'm in complete agreement with arnie on the subject of French pronunciations, indeed on any attempts to pronounce imported words (especially ones that have been around a long time) with the accents of their original language.

However, also like arnie, I've never noticed any special similarity between American and French pronuciation and never considered American pronunciation to be affected - just different.

As for the cedille Alt 0231 (ç) does it in most character sets with other accented characters being represent by Alt 0232 (è) Alt 0233 (é) Alt 0234 (ê) etc.

Habent Abdenda Omnes Praeter Me ac Simiam Meam

[This message was edited by BobHale on Wed Sep 4th, 2002 at 11:18.]
 
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My family is from Louisiana. But when I travel abroad, I have to be very careful to avoid the French pronunciation I grew up around. I find myself stopping and awkwardely searching for the 'unaffected' version of words. Wouldn't want the Brits thinking I'm more pompous than I already am. My grandfather tells of receiving 'pops' and the dunce cap from non-creole schoolmasters in reprimand for the very French accent and vocabulary that had been drilled into him since birth. He had a best friend named Hebert whose name accidently led to countless bruises until my grandfather finally began calling him 'H'.
Interesting to a few, I hope.
TC.
 
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A Thunder Chicken from Houston! I don't think I can find an appropriate smiley to welcome you! (sorry...best I could do on short notice! wink)

And, folks, don't worry, I won't try to pronounce anymore french words.
 
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qui vive (noun): alert; lookout; used in the phrase on the qui vive
1726; from qui vive?=”long live who?”, challenge of a French sentry (pronunciation: kE-'vEv) (M-W)
quote:
Royalty Magazine, on the Death of Princess Margaret:
Of all members of the Royal Family, she has always been the one most on the qui-vive for lapses in due deference. All a friend had to do to earn Margaret’s ire was to refer to King George VI as "your father" or the Queen as "your sister". The miscreant would be sharply reminded of the full majestic title – "I take it you mean His Majesty King George VI", Margaret would say – and would mostly likely be crossed off the royal guest list there and then.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by wordcrafter:
__qui vive__ (noun): alert; lookout; used in the phrase _on the qui vive_
1726; from _qui vive?_=”long live who?”, challenge of a French sentry (pronunciation: kE-'vEv) (M-W)



I've occasionally heard the expression "on the QV" (pronounced as letters Q-V [kew-vee]) but until now it's never occurred to me to wonder where it's from.
Now I know.
I've never heard it in full though.

Habent Abdenda Omnes Praeter Me ac Simiam Meam
 
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Welcome, ThunderChicken! Nice name! big grin
I would love to borrow a bit of that "affected" French accent. You should hear me!
 
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beau monde: the world of high society and fashion.
1673; literally, fine world. (pronunciation: bO-'mänd, -mOnd) (M-W)
quote:
Waugh ... was on the whole not much interested in their contradictions and paradoxes. He wished the the beau monde to remain in the image he had formed, usually showing himself unwilling to listen, if facts were offered that seemed to militate against that image.
-- Christopher Hitchens, in The Atlantic Monthly, June 2001
 
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Ah, Wordcrafter! Beau Monde is also a seasoning that any good cook will find in her pantry. Used in dips for the most part, it tastes heavilly of celery seed and onion.
 
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I enjoyed checking into that, Morgan, and found that Beau Monde Seasoning is the trademarked commercial name for a certain blend. A click from that site gives a recipe, calling for a blend of cinnamon, salt, bay leaf, allspice, black pepper, nutmeg, mace, celery seed and white pepper.
 
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quote:
A click from that site gives a recipe, calling for a blend of cinnamon, salt, bay leaf, allspice, black pepper, nutmeg, mace, celery seed and white pepper.
That recipe is for what they refer to as "Almost Beau Monde Seasoning". Almost is a key word there!

True, Beau Monde is made by one company, Spice Islands, but the ingredients listed on the label of my jar include: Salt, Dextrose, Onion, Celery Seed, Tricalcium Phosphate. The recipe quoted on that site is a far cry from the original.
 
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sangfroid: self-possession or imperturbability especially under strain
1750; literally, cold blood (pronunciation: 'sän-'f(r)wä) (M-W)
quote:
A Letter to a Friend begins by a description — curiously blended between medical sangfroid and human sympathy — of (apparently) a case of rapid consumption [tuberculosis]
--The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, refering to a letter of Sir Thomas Browne
 
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Wordcrafter, thank you for the outstanding words this week! French words are so wonderful because they sound beautiful and are oftentimes so pointed in meaning. For example, when one calls a product, or whatever, the creme de la creme, the meaning is understood by all (I did not know how to put the accents over the 2 cremes--sorry)
 
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I have saved for last a phrase that will resonate with those who love words:

mot juste: (mO zhüst ): exactly the right word or expression. [mot=word + juste=right] (AHD) (1912, per M-W)
quote:
The search for the mot juste is not a pedantic fad but a vital necessity. Words are our precision tools. Imprecision engenders ambiguity and hours are wasted in removing verbal misunderstandings before the argument of substance can begin.
-- anonymous civil servant. This quotation once headed Roget's Thesaurus on-line (since changed, but cited elsewhere).
The quotation was new to Roget's – the 1996 print edition has no introductory quotation about precise speaking. But the 1947 edition opened with a different quote, familiar to those who use this board: "The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between the lightning and the lightning-bug."
 
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And let's not forget our very own section, here on the board, Potpourri.

My grandmother gave me a recipe when I was a teen for potpourri. I was fascinated by it and planned to make my very own. The problem was the main ingredient, rose petals. Mom didn't have roses, so I had to find a neighbor who would let me pick hers. I carefully picked the rose petals early in the morning, while the dew was still on them, as the instructions said. I put them in the basement to dry. Then came the other ingredients. How is a 13 year old supposed to know what "dried orris root" is? Well, the rose petals rotted and stunk up the place before I got the potpourri made.

So much for potpourri! But the word has always brought a smile to my face because it was my beloved grandmother who brought it to my life. smile
 
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Reviving a thread...

leit-motif - A dominant and recurring theme, as in a novel.

What a great word! I just saw it being used about the political career of Clinton: "But when Haitian thugs on the piers threatened the Americans, Clinton almost reflexively pulled the ship back, and the action became a leit-motif of the Clinton foreign policy to analysts everywhere."
 
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Leitmotiv is a German loanword. Loanword is a German loan-translation.
 
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Oh, so sorry...I feel so stupid! Frown It just hasn't been my day. Wrong thread, folks!
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Kalleh:
For example, when one calls a product, or whatever, the _creme de la creme_, the meaning is understood by all


All except the French. 'Creme de la creme' is not an expression used by the French. It may be a Bertie-Woosterish expression from England, or it may come from Quebec along with other ostensibly French phrases like 'Sacre Bleue'.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Kalleh:
What a wonderful thread! Big Grin
Do you or Safi, however, have any hints for correct pronunciation of French words for people, like me, who have never taken French? I took Spanish and really wish I had taken French instead, just for the sake of correct pronunciation. I am even self-conscious when saying, "_croissant_"


The problem with correct French pronunciation is that it requires vowel sounds that simply don't exist in English. 'Ou' is pronounced to rhyme with 'you', but the 'u' in 'tu' is pronounced like u-umlaut in German, and without a lot of ear training they sound exactly the same to Anglophones.

I don't even pronounced my own name right. The 'eu' in 'Neveu' is pronounced like 'er' without the r and a little of that French u mixed in (there's not even a good way to phonetically spell it -- it's not 'er', or 'uh' or anything).

The 'ant' in croissant is a nasal 'uh' sound. The final consonants are silent. The 'ent' in 'parent' is also a nasal 'uh' sound, but a different nasal 'uh' sound. The word for 'one' or the article 'a' is 'un', which is pronounced with a subtly different nasal 'uh' sound. The 'in' in 'enfin' ('finally') is pronounced with yet a different nasal 'uh' sound. All of these sound like 'uh' to Anglophones.

In sum, Kalleh, don't worry about it. kwa-SAHNT is just fine.
 
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So, neveu, are you by any chance from France? Safi used to post here at the very beginning of this site, and I have missed his French influence. He had to leave because of his work situation.

I am surprised about 'Creme de la creme;' I have always loved that phrase.

I suppose I am showing my stupdity again, but what is a Bertie-Woosterish expression?
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Kalleh:
So, neveu, are you by any chance from France?


No, I'm American. My family name is French-Canadian. I started French in junior high and took it through college. In college I had a French-Canadian girlfriend for about a year, and she taught me a lot, especially about differences between international French and Quebec French. That's the extent of my French expertise. Please assume anything I say about French, France or Quebec begins with the disclaimer "I may be completely full of shit, but..."

quote:
I am surprised about 'Creme de la creme;' I have always loved that phrase.


Sorry. I just heard that from somewhere reliable, so I think it's true. But I can't remember where. See disclaimer above.

quote:
I suppose I am showing my stupdity again, but what is a Bertie-Woosterish expression?


I just meant a funny, upper-class English public schoolboy construction like Bertie Wooster sometimes uses in the P.G. Wodehouse novels.

I'm disappointed you didn't ask me about 'sacre bleu'. Go on, ask me about 'sacre bleu'.
 
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Quote "...I just meant a funny, upper-class English public schoolboy construction like Bertie Wooster sometimes uses in the P.G. Wodehouse novels..."

I understand that, although P G Wodehouse spent the last half of his life in the USA, he is not well-known there for his novels.

The American remember him better as a lyricist and he wrote the lyrics for several Broadway shows. Strangely, in the UK the opposite applies.

I wonder whether the whole premise of pig-loving earls and wealthy young men with no visible means of support, throwing bread rolls at similar young men in a London club is just too foreign for the American mindset to appreciate.


Richard English
 
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OK, neveu, I'll bite. Where does 'sacre bleu' come from? Smile


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by arnie:
OK, neveu, I'll bite. Where does 'sacre bleu' come from? Smile


I'm glad you asked. I heard 'sacre bleu' when I was a little kid from the Cap'n Crunch commercials. Bad pirate Jean LaFoot would say 'Sacre bleu!' when Cap'n Crunch stole his breakfast, or whatever. But my French teachers and native Frenchmen I spoke to had never heard it. It was also the only French expression my father knew.

Quebec swearing, unlike French swearing, is entirely religious. All the Quebec swear words (or sacres) derive from objects used in the Catholic Mass. This may be because of the enormous influence of the church in French Canada, or just an older style of swearing from the sexual and scatological swearing of modern European French (and English).

'Sacre bleu' turns out to be a euphemism for 'sacrament'. Sacrament is nothing you would say in polite company. 'Sacre bleu' is a dated little-old-lady word, like gosh-darn for goddamn.

The Seven Bad Words You Can't Say On TV in Quebec are:

Christ : pronounced with a very short 'i' and silent 't', with a long hissing 's' at the end, as in 'Chrisssssss! You've been in the toilet for 45 minutes!"

Calice: refers to the communion chalice. Pronounced Kah-lissssss with that long hissing s again.

Calvaire: My personal favorite, and a word we need in English. It refers to Jesus carrying the cross to Calvary to be crucified, and may have refered to a specific act of penitence. Now it means a long, arduous, tiring experience, like flying post-9/11. Quel calvaire! Pronounced Kahl-vairrrrr, with an extended, rolled gutteral 'r'

Hostie: The Host, the communion wafer, the body of Christ in Catholic dogma. Sometimes spelled 'estie' and pronounced es-TEE or just s-TEE. Usually used for emphasis: "Il fait froid, en hostie!" means "It's DAMN cold".

Sacrement: Usually used as an exclamation. Pronounced sac-ri-Ma where that last 'ma' is like the English 'man' but you cut it off just before you hit the 'n'.

Tabarnacle: I believe it refers to the canopy or dome above the altar in a Roman Catholic church. Almost always pronounced tabarnak. Used as an exclamation or for emphasis.

Ciboire: The cup in which the communion wafers are kept. Pronounced see-bwahhhrrrr. Probably the least commonly used.
---

I'm sure that's more than you ever wanted to know about les sacres quebecois. Thanks for letting me babble on -- I love this stuff. I'm pretty sure most of it is correct; I've got Gilles Charest's 'Sacres et blasphemes Quebecois' sitting in front of me and I've tried to check all my facts and spellings. Quel calvaire, en tabarnak!
 
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I wonder whether the whole premise of pig-loving earls and wealthy young men with no visible means of support, throwing bread rolls at similar young men in a London club is just too foreign for the American mindset to appreciate.


Wodehouse certainly isn't well-known in America, but anyone who reads Wordcraft or watches PBS will, I think, appreciate the humor.
 
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Bain-marie -- Maria's bath. This is the French word for double boiler, named after Maria the Jewish, the great chemist. Maria was brilliant and invented stills and reflux condensers, one of which was called the kerotakis...ever heard of it? I sure haven't! This kerotakis was a sort of double boiler, thus the term "bain-marie." Here is more about Marie.

Too bad about the slang term femme au bain-marie since Marie really wasn't very empty-headed!
 
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