Having fallen behind in the words of the day, we'll play a bit of catch-up. This week's theme is 'Terms from French', beginning with a word that would also fit our recent theme of 'Eyesight as Metaphor'.
louche – disreputable or dubious; shady – but in a rakishly appealing way
. . . .[most dictionaries miss the qualification after the 'but']
[from F. meaning 'cross-eyed'; ult. from Latin luscus blind in one eye]
– Deirdre Donahue, USA Today, Dec. 28, 2001, reviewing the book Seabiscuit
The late Pope was truly a man for the masses and no slave to the cultural fashions beloved of the louche Left of the West.
– Piers Akerman, Australia Daily Telegraph, April 12, 2005
Thanks to the famous Monte Carlo casino, Rainier maintained the aura of gambling as a high-rolling sport of dashing counts and louche playboys.
– Robin Givhan, The Washington Post, April 11, 2005
[from M.Fr. soubriquet, meaning lit. "a chuck under the chin"]
[WC note: Though dictionaries do not say so, a sobriquet typically names a characteristic of the subject; that is, it is an epithet. For example, "Joe" is a nickname for Joseph, but wouldn't typically be called a sobriquet.]
– Hugh Reilly, The Scotsman, Apr 27, 2005
John Paul II's unique stamp on the papacy earned him the sobriquet of the "people's pope" due to his ability to connect with people of every faith.
– Kevin McElderry, AFP, April 20, 2005
Among his critics [the new Pope] has earned the sobriquet "God's rottweiler" but his supporters say he is a courteous, gentle man and an outstanding theologian with a deep sense of spirituality.
- Jonathan Petre, Bruce Johnston, 'God's rottweiler' is the new Pope, Telegraph, Apr 20, 2005
cap-a-pie – at all points
[literally, 'head to foot]
Its subject is the sea-rivalry between Britain and Germany that was a principal cause of the First World War. … a struggle between the two greatest navies of the day, the ancient Royal Navy of the British and the young, technologically brilliant Imperial Navy of the Germans.
Jutland dominates three chapters of this volume. … it was in the North Sea that the two great enemies finally faced one another cap a pie, gun to gun …
Don't confuse our recent word sobriquet (silent t) with soubrette, where the t is pronounced.
soubrette theater – 1. the role of a saucy, coquettish maidservant or like subordinate (also, the actress in that role) 2. a woman of the stage who, in real life, is that sort of flirty person
As I understand it, the soubrette is always a subordinate, not upper-crust, and is always a supporting role. That is, a lead character, even one so flirty as Scarlett O'Hara or any early Katherine Hepburn role, is not a soubrette.
On rare occasion, the term is used for such a female who is not in the world of theater, television etc. For example:
– Mike Houlihan, Chicago Sun-Times, May 25, 2003
For some reason, the task of explaining the birds and bees was not entrusted to our biology teacher but to a hectoring, sergeant-major type of a fellow from the PT department. … Worse … was his use of Scottish country dancing as a cruel and unusual punishment. … To add to the terror, … does teacher not pair you off with one Tizzi (at least I think that's how this soubrette's sobriquet was spelled) Malone, the most stupendously endowed girl of that or any other year.
– Tom Shields, The Sunday Herald, Nov. 16, 2003
beau ideal – the perfect type or model [French beau idéal ideal beauty]
The Electoral College was designed [because] the framers ... had a certain distrust of direct democracy. "They wanted to sway the election to the man with the best character, not some demagogue," he says. George Washington, a man of great reputation without strong positions on the issues of his day, was their beau ideal.
– Dan Ackman and Lisa DiCarlo, Forbes.com, Nov. 27, 2001
I was the beau ideal of the morbid young aesthetical —
To doubt my inspiration was regarded as heretical —
Until you cut me out with your placidity emetical.
Sing "Booh to you — Pooh, pooh to you" — And that's what I shall say!
– Gilbert & Sullivan, Patience
George Fitzhugh defended slavery as a practical form of socialism that provided contented slaves with paternalistic masters, thereby eliminating harsh conflicts between employers and allegedly free workers. 'A Southern farm is the beau ideal of Communism; it is a joint concern, in which the slave ... is far happier, because ... he is always sure of support.'
– Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, Emancipating the Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War
volte face – a complete and abrupt reversal of policy, position, etc.; an about-face
– Olivia Ward, New Internationalist, Jan-Feb, 2003
– Tom Sutcliffe, Aug. 7, 2000, in The Guardian, on the death of Sir Alec Guinness
A keen feeling of mental unease, as of annoyance or embarrassment, caused by failure, disappointment, or a disconcerting event: To her chagrin, the party ended just as she arrived.
tr.v., -grined, -grin·ing, -grins.
To cause to feel chagrin; mortify or discomfit: He was chagrined at the poor sales of his book. See synonyms at embarrass.
[French, possibly from dialectal French chagraigner, to distress, become gloomy, from Old French graim, sorrowful, gloomy, of Germanic origin.]
WORD HISTORY The ultimate etymology of the word chagrin, which comes directly to us from French, is considered uncertain by many etymologists. At one time chagrin was thought to be the same word as shagreen, “a leather or skin with a rough surface,” derived from French chagrin. The reasoning was that in French the word for this rough material, which was used to smooth and polish things, was extended to the notion of troubles that fret and annoy a person. It was later decided, however, that the sense “rough leather” and the sense “sorrow” each belonged to a different French word chagrin. Other etymologists have offered an alternative explanation, suggesting that the French word chagrin, “sorrow,” is a loan translation of the German word Katzenjammer, “a hangover from drinking.” A loan translation is a type of borrowing from another language in which the elements of a foreign word, as in Katzen, “cats,” and Jammer, “distress, seediness,” are assumed to be translated literally by corresponding elements in another language, in this case, chat, “cat,” and grigner, “to grimace.” The actual etymology is less colorful, with the word probably going back to a Germanic word, *gramī, meaning “sorrow, trouble.” Chagrin is first recorded in English in 1656 in the now obsolete sense “anxiety, melancholy.”
More here - which also gives the French terms (interestingly, they don't seem to use the word themselves).