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Ah, the French. Let's revisit a topic from nine months ago, and look at some further phrases from French.

billet-doux (plural billets-doux) - a love letter
(literally, sweet letter)

Those who don't speak french will be close enough to the correct pronunciation with bil-ay DOO. The plural is pronounced with the last syllable as DOOZ.

quote:
'Twas then Belinda, if Report say true,
Thy Eyes first open'd on a Billet-doux.
Wounds, Charms, and Ardors, were no sooner read,
But all the Vision vanish'd from thy Head.
-- Alexander Pope's classic Rape of the Lock

Young lovers in Victorian England, forbidden to express their affection in public and fearful that strict parents would intercept their billets-doux, sent coded messages through the personal columns in newspapers.
--Susan Adams, I've got a Secret, Forbes, September 20, 1999 (with thankful acknowledgement to dictionary.com)
 
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quote:
Originally posted by wordcrafter:
Those who don't speak french will be close enough to the correct pronunciation with _bil-ay DOO_. The plural is pronounced with the last syllable as _DOOZ_.



I'm afraid that's incorrect. Since the second word remains the same in the plural, its French pronunciation also remains the same. If you were speaking French, and the phrase were followed by a vowel then the X would be sounded.

Since the French for a note (le billet) is masculine, the adjective doux doesn't change in the plural; "lettres douces", however, is correct.

The older English pronunciation is "billy do"; plural "billy dos" but as with "Marsails" it has regained more of its original French pronunciation.
 
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amour propre (or "amour-propre"; literally, love of oneself) –
self-esteem; typically with sense of excessive pride; vanity
quote:
At 24, in 1951, the critic was engaged by Guinness as Player King in his second Hamlet. Guinness invested much amour propre in this production. Its failure turned out to be a major factor in Guinness's move away from the classics and Shakespeare and into films, ultimately television, and new plays.
- Tom Sutcliffe, in The Guardian, August 7, 2000, on the death of Sir Alec Guinness
 
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soi-disant (swah-dee-ZAHN) - self-styled

One major dictionary erroneously adds "so-called" in its definition. Spectator columnist Taki Theodoracopoulos skewered himself with this very misunderstanding, in his column of February 24, 2001.
quote:
Taki: Marc Rich, however, has done us a favour. By bribing everyone and sundry, he managed to expose the side of Clinton so many leftists and liberals refused to see. He also proved what we, soi-disant anti-Semites for daring to protest about soldiers shooting at kids, always knew.

Taki, in follow-up: I said my soi-disant anti-Semitism, meaning that I have been besmirched with that charge ever since I protested against certain Israeli tactics.

In an unfortunate passage, Taki labelled himself an anti-Semite by confusing the term "soi disant" - thinking it meant "so-called" when in fact it translates as "self-styled".
Matt Wells, The Guardian, March 16, 2001
 
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raison d'etre (or raison d'être) – reason or justification for existing
quote:
Much hope for a nascent East Asian regionalism, encompassing both Northeast and Southeast Asia, arose from the July meeting in Bangkok of the ASEAN foreign ministers ... It is still unclear if ASEAN, Japan, China and South Korea all see an economic raison d'etre for a wider grouping, even if it is based on open regionalism.
- Time/CNN Asiaweek.com e-zine, Sept. 15, 2000
 
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bete noire (or bête noire) – something especially hated or dreaded; a bugbear
  • Some dictionaries imply a person hated or detested, but this is not accurate.
  • I'd think this term can mean something highly problematical and difficult, though not necessarily disliked. Comment?
quote:
The Tory party's festering sore, the issue of Europe, was exposed to the fore yesterday as the two rivals for the leadership clashed during the only head-to-head debate of an increasingly acrimonious contest. Despite both Kenneth Clarke and Iain Duncan Smith agreeing the party should not allow itself to be monopolised by the issue, discussion of its bete noire dominated 40 of the 55 minutes of the debate.
- Sarah Hall, in The Guardian, August 23, 2001
 
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bon vivant (bon vee-vahnt') – a person who lives luxuriously and enjoys good food and drink.
quote:
But his sense of humor, and the twinkle in his blue eyes, never dimmed. He was once asked if he considered himself a "bon vivant." "Well, I am not really a bon vivant," he replied, "because a bon vivant I think of as a connoisseur of wines. I am a connoisseur of Scotch whiskey...and try to inculcate it in my law clerks so they won't get too involved with musty volumes of law."
– CBS News, December 13, 1999, on the death of Judge Minor Wisdom

Benjamin Franklin is perhaps the most remarkable figure in American history: the greatest statesman of his age, he played a pivotal role in the formation of the American republic. He was also a pioneering scientist, a bestselling author, the country’s first postmaster general, a printer, a bon vivant, a diplomat, a ladies man, and a moralist--and the most prominent celebrity of the eighteenth century.
– Publisher's blurb by Yale University Press
 
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au courant (oh' koo-rahn') - up-to-date.

Note: some dictionaries say express this "up to date" in the sense of "fully informed", but I understand it to be more commonly used in the sense of stylish: "The shoes, the hair, the clothes — every last detail — was utterly au courant."
quote:
The sale will feature a selection of magnificent jewels designed by leading international jewellery designers, the majority of them unique examples of the individual jeweller’s work. ... Each enjoys an international reputation among the cognoscenti who are "au courant" when it comes to the world of high fashion and jewels.
- Sotheby's: press release on a special auction in Geneva in November, 2000
 
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I love French words. Two more of my favorites are: décolletage or risque. My mom used to use those words when she didn't approve of my dress. Roll Eyes Eek
 
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Mom didn't -- but I did. Wink
 
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There once was a girl from Bryn Mawr
Who committed a dreadful faux pas.
She loosened a stay
On her décolleté,
Thus exposing her je ne sais quoi.
 
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Pensee - Does anyone know this word? I found it defined on one site in onelook. However, it defined, "pensees", not "pensee" (as "thoughts"). Here is how I saw it used: "I was too immersed that day in composing my fourth pensee on the Northbrook hazing incident to consider joining any public-safety effort."
 
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The Wikipedia definition you linked to seems to explain the meaning pretty well. What is your problem with it?
 
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Arnie, I was confused because Wikipedia only referred to it as a plural word. Having never heard it, I wondered if it should only be used to mean "thoughts", even though my quote had it used as a singular word. However, after Tinman posted the OED site in Links for Linguaphiles, I looked it up there. They have it listed as "pensee."

I am assuming that "pensive" is dervived from that word.
 
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I had the occasion to use "voila" (sorry, even though I tried to use Tinman's previous directions, I wasn't able to get the accent mark to work) today, and I looked it up to understand more about the word. It means an expression of satisfaction, and while I didn't realize this, the dicationary says it's usually used "for a thing shown." E.g, "Voila! The cake is done!" So, it is related to the word "voyeur." I would not have guessed that!
 
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As I recall in my French lessons about half a century ago, voila means "look there" and voici means "look at this". Both come from voir, to see.

So the English equivalent of voila could literally be, "hey, look at that", which conveys a similar sense to that Kalleh suggests.

Richard English
 
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A more colloquial rendition of voici and violà might be "Here it is!" and "There it is!" (as in "There you have it, sports fans!" or whoever)
 
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Actually, you meant voilà. A viola is a large sized violin.

Voici and voilà come from vois ici (see here) and vois là (see there).
 
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Yes, yes, but did you see my comment about the accent mark? Hab tried to help me, in a private topic, learn to use an accent mark (I know; it is called something else.) However, I still can't get it to work. How is this "voila'"? Best I can do!
 
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But seriously, folks -

Kalleh, if you "copy" my entire PM and then "paste" it into a brand new Word document, will it then behave properly?
 
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For you, Kalleh.
 
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Revanche- a usually political policy designed to recover lost territory or status.
 
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And, what on earth happened to our Derek? He was on such a roll, too!

Because Justice Scalia has been involved in a few controversies (that doesn't look right!) lately, a law professor, writing about him, called he an enfant terrible, meaning a person whose unconventional behavior embarrasses others. Now, politics aside, I do love that phrase. We really don't have a word or phrase for this, do we?
 
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