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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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Is French language misogynist?

  Vous pouvez lire l’article en français ici You can read the article in French here     Here are two pairs of English words and their French equivalents: 1. English son ↔ daughter             French fils ↔ fille 2. English boy ↔ girl                       French garçon ↔ fille The words fils and fille are from Latin filius, […]

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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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Secularism and religion in France

Secularism and religion in France

  As a French citizen, I’m always surprised that in Great Britain, State and Religion are linked. For example, it would be totally unthinkable in France that the Head of State also be the Head of any Church. Whilst the Queen delivers a speech on Christmas Day, the French President presents his (not yet her) […]

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Communing in the South Pacific

    The ten years I spent as a French teacher in several small South Pacific countries have taught me a lot. Being immersed in radically different civilisations has greatly helped me: not only to define myself but also to learn what real respect consists of.   In particular, I spent three years on one […]

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