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left & right – la gauche & la droite

left & right – la gauche & la droite

  ‘You’d better go and shift that ladder to the right window.’ ‘You mean the left window.’ ‘Well, let’s call it the correct window.’ I braced myself to break the bad news. ‘Ah,’ I said, ‘but what you’re overlooking – possibly because I forgot to tell you – is that a snag has arisen which […]

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jingoism & chauvinism

jingoism & chauvinism

  Retour de Napoléon dans l’île de Lobau après la bataille d’Essling Charles Meynier     The English word jingo and the French word chauvin both apply to that ultra-patriotic section of the population which, in war-time, attends to the shouting.     Jingo first appeared in conjurors’ jargon of the 17th century. It was used in the oath […]

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cheese – fromage

cheese – fromage

  “Comment voulez-vous gouverner un pays qui a deux-cent quarante-six variétés de fromage ?” (“How can you govern a country which has two hundred and forty-six varieties of cheese?”) attributed to Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970), French general and statesman, in Les mots du général de Gaulle (1962), by Ernest Mignon photograph: fémivin.com   The word cheese is from Old English cēse, cȳse, […]

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The ‘one’ in ‘alone’

The ‘one’ in ‘alone’

  William Tyndale (1494-1536)     Why is the element ‘one’ in alone and only not pronounced like the numeral one? And why does English, unlike most European languages, distinguish between a book and one book?   The Old English word ān has given both the indefinite article an (a before consonant) and the numeral one. In Scotland, ane has survived both as […]

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Green, an unsettling colour

Green, an unsettling colour

      Verdigris is a bright bluish-green encrustation or patina formed on copper or brass by atmospheric oxidation, consisting of basic copper carbonate. The word verdigris is from Old French verte-gres, earlier vert de Grece, meaning green of Greece.     ETYMOLOGIES   The word green is etymologically related to the words grass and grow. And […]

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Le nénufar et l’ognon (ou les avatars de l’orthographe française)

  Le préjugé orthographique ne se justifie ni par la logique, ni par l’histoire… il se fonde sur une tradition relativement récente, formée surtout d’ignorance. Histoire de la langue française, par Ferdinand Brunot (1860-1938)     Les Français considèrent souvent l’orthographe de leur langue comme quasi sacrée – comme si elle était gravée dans le […]

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bacon

bacon

        Harengs et bacons Sont bonnes provisions. Dicton paysan   En Grande-Bretagne mais aussi en France, le bacon a longtemps constitué un aliment de base, le fait qu’il soit salé et fumé assurant sa conservation.     ÉTYMOLOGIE   Le mot anglais bacon (prononcé [ˈbeɪk(ə)n] dans cette langue) est attesté en français […]

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‘nice’

‘nice’

  It seems hardly possible to explain the modern sense of nice, which in the course of its history has traversed nearly the whole diatonic scale between “rotten” and “ripping.” In Middle English and Old French it means foolish. Cotgrave explains it by “lither, lazie, sloathful, idle; faint, slack; dull, simple,” and Shakespeare uses it […]

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La langue française est-elle misogyne ?

La langue française est-elle misogyne ?

  You can read the article in English here Vous pouvez lire l’article en anglais ici     Considérons les termes français suivants, avec leurs équivalents anglais :  fils                   fille                    son          daughter garçon            fille         […]

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The veracious story of a worthy knight, called Sir Loin of Beef

The veracious story of a worthy knight, called Sir Loin of Beef

  At Astley Hall (Lancashire), you can still see this chair… … with the following explanation: Sirloin Chair – King James I reputedly knighted a loin of beef upon this chair at Hoghton Tower, Lancashire, in 1617. Se non è vero, è ben trovato. (Even if it is not true, it makes a good story.)     The […]

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