French has contributed heavily to our language. This week we'll look at some French contributions in which the gallic flavor still lingers.
démarche – 1. a course of action; maneuver. 2. a diplomatic initiative, representation or protest.
quote:Moscow has repeatedly said that North Korea made a mistake by withdrawing from the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty], because this démarche was fraught with dangerous consequences. - Pravda, Oct. 14, 2003
While [Ambassador] Shiron did not register a démarche, or formal protest, with the Swiss government over the issue, he said he made it clear that Israel's elected government is the only body empowered to engage in negotiations. - Jerusalem Post, Oct. 22, 2003
idée fixe – an idea that dominates one's mind; an obsession
So say the dictionaries. But I'd suggest that the phrase is more often used to mean simply any belief, principle or goal consistently held over time – without any concept of "obsession" or "monomania". See, for example, the second and third quotations below.
quote:Notre-Dame rises tomblike from the water. The gargoyles lean far out over the lace façade. They hang there like an idée fixe in the mind of a monomaniac. - Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer
In any event, paradoxical as it sounds, the fact is that Frenchmen were to insist earlier than the Germans or Englishmen on this idée fixe of Germanic superiority. - Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism
Granny raised me on the Southern idée fixe that ladies do not lie except in the interests of tact. - Florence King, Southern Ladies and Gentlemen
quote:Her voluble but disjointed account was accompanied by many a droll moue. – Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
'I don't know much about' Baal began to protest, but 'Ayesha', who really was the most attractive of them all, or so he had commenced to feel of late, made a delightful moue. 'Honestly, husband,' she cajoled him. 'It's not so tough. We just want you to, you know. Be the boss.' – Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses
jeunesse dorée – young people of fashion and wealth
quote:At Aspern Airfield an "Aeronautical Parade" had drawn so many of the jeunesse dorée that their Rolls-Royces, Austro- Daimlers, Gr.if & Stifts, and Mercedes-Benzes overflowed the parking space. - Thunder at Twilight: Vienna 1913/1914, by Frederic Morton
From the web: The term stems from the French Revolution, following the July 27, 1794 overthrow of Jacobin government and the arrest and execution of Robespierre. Louis Freron, who played a key role in that counter-revolution, organized gangs of fashionably dressed young toughs to terrorize the remaining Jacobins. French speakers called those stylish young thugs the "jeunesse doree," literally the "gilded youth."
Later, by the time the term was adopted into English in the 1830s, it was no longer associated with violent street gangs and simply referred to any wealthy young socialites.
I was sent the following from a lurker whom I really wish would post!
Savoir Faire: "Know-how" is close, but refers more to practical arts and skills, and not to social skills. There was a joke in Readers Digest many years ago about an American in Paris asking two Frenchmen to define it for him. The first one said: "Suppose you come home unexpectedly, finding your wife having sex with your best friend, and you say: 'Pray, do not disturb yourselves. Pray, continue!' You have savoir faire." "The second Frenchman said: "And if your friend CAN continue, HE has savoir faire!"
quote:If you went into Lynn and Sedley, and made your way into the `made robes' department, you would see me in a frock coat, walking about with a dégagé air and directing ladies who want to buy petticoats or stockings. - W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage,, ch. CVI
I'm having an insomnia attack, so I've been noodling around on the internet. I ended up on this Eddie Izzard kick and found this quote from his concert "Circle". Which I haven't seen.
But it did make me think of this thread.
Eddie: [The Renaissance] But they had a French name. It gave them a certain Je ne sais quoi, a certain savoir faire, a certain détante. A certain... cul-de-sac, a certain ...Jacques Chirac. A certain . . . pomme de terre. A certain vie de la Dordogne. F**k it.
------------------------- Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.--Groucho Marx -----------------------------
passe-partout – a master key. by extension: something that allows one to pass or go at will¹ [French: passer, to pass + partout, everywhere]
quote:...they appeared in considerable numbers, with a university degree or, more simply, attendance at a European university, seen as a sort of passepartout, the means to multiple opportunities at home. Many are the stories of the "beentos," the English-schooled young men, those who London in the last decades of colonial empire, who returned home to West Africa with an affected style that included dressing in English worsteds and starched collars... - Raymond F. Betts, Decolonization (The Making of the Contemporary World)
¹For reasons unknown to me, the term also means a mat around a framed picture, or strong paper gummed on one side for mounting pictures.
My logophilic friend, who won't post , seems to love this thread. He keeps sending me comments about French words and has said that I can post them:
"When I was in Manila, just after VE day, I met a GI who had been in France, but not being yet eligible for discharge, got sent to the Pacific. He taught me a lot about French customs. He told me that in WWI, American soldiers who attempted to date French girls of good families were told: 'Elle est chérie', meaning cherished in the sense of being closely supervised by parents. From this arose the vulgar term for intact hymen."
I read a funny story in the NY Times, entitled, "The Pampered Paws of Paris." It seems the French treat their dogs well. In the Trianon Palace Hotel, you can get a room for $400/day and treat your dog to games in the garden, behavioral psychologists, personal trainers, massage therapists, beauticians, healthy haute cuisine, custom beds covered in violet fake fur, etc.
One client demanded that her dog's drinking water be served at room temperature in Limoges porcelain with the dog's name on it and that rugs be laid on on the bathroom floor so that the dog wouldn't catch a cold. When the manager was asked if he thought such requests ridiculous, he replied with appropriate sang-froid. "I don't judge them", he said.