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AWADmail Issue 355

Apr 19, 2009

A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Interesting Tidbits about Words and Language


From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the net

50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice
The Chronicle of Higher Education

If Only Literature Could Be a Cellphone-Free Zone
The New York Times


From: Elizabeth Viney (donvineys bigpond.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--passe-partout
Def: 1. Something that enables unrestricted access. 2. An ornamental mat. 3. An adhesive tape.

It was used as the name for a wonderful character in Jules Verne's 'Around the World in 80 days'. Passepartout, the loyal French valet, played a vital role in Phileas Fogg's amazing journey and even spotted the loophole by which Fogg was able to win the bet.

In a modern twist, Passepartout was also the term used to refer to the five person BBC film crew that worked with Michael Palin on his TV series 'Around The World in 80 Days' and is the name of the production company associated with his travel documentaries.


From: Tony Boudreau (tabnox mac.com)
Subject: passe-partout

Here in Acadian South Louisiana the term is found in much Cajun music and lore. A passe-partout is a large two-manned tree saw designed to saw an entire large tree such as a Louisiana Bald Cypress. The term used here literally means to pass or cut through the whole thing or trunk. During the settlement of Louisiana in the 18th and 19th centuries, Native Cypress was the building material of choice, and a passe-partout was a common implement of the rural Cajun culture.


From: Jane Thomas (thomasej umich.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--beau monde
Def: The world of fashion; high society.

Beau monde is an interesting word with lots of background. One meaning, though, doesn't appear in the dictionaries: a seasoning. Beau monde is a wonderful seasoning that includes such spices as cinnamon, cloves, salt, pepper, garlic, celery, and many other flavors.


From: Harvey A. Leve (harveyaleve aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--pas de deux
Def: 1. A dance for two people. 2. A close relationship between two people or things involved in an activity.

What did the Parisian nurse say to the anxious father as she came out of delivery room where his wife had just given birth to twins? "Pa de deux."


From: Louis P. Nappen (nappen comcast.net)
Subject: Re: pas de deux

"Pas de deux" will forever be linked in my mind with Dan Fogelberg, who hauntingly used it (and a few other French phrases) to great effect in his song Dancing Shoes on his Netherlands album. "Pas de deux" is near the end.


From: Robert Nathan (rjnathan earthlink.net)
Subject: pas de deux

In dressage, a coordinated exhibition by two riders and their horses is also referred to as a pas de deux.


From: Charles Neame (c.neame cranfield.ac.uk)
Subject: French terms used in English

I remember once hearing an announcement on the Dover-Calais ferry. First in English: "Please note that the buffet is now open." Then in French: "Veuillez noter que le snack-bar est maintenant ouvert."


From: Carolanne Reynolds (gg wordsmith.org)
Subject: borrowing

For clarification and context since this week's theme is words 'borrowed' from French, for those interested in language it should not come as a surprise that the influence of French on English goes further than simple borrowing (as the word is commonly understood). After the victory of William the Conqueror/ Guillaume le Conquerant at Battle of Hastings in 1066, the Norman Conquest, French was the language of the court (aristocracy), the government, the law, that is of the rulers. Norman French then formed the 'upper layer' (freedom and liberty; work and labour; truth and veracity) on top of Anglo-Saxon, a Germanic language (with some Scandinavian). English ended up having two words for many things other languages (like French and German) have just one for (German: haus; French: maison; English: house and mansion). Vive la difference!


From: Causse Jean-pierre (causse.jean-pierre orange.fr)
Subject: travelling words

Une tonnelle (that is an arbour, an arbor) has given the English "a tunnel" then returned to France for "un tunnel". "Une entrevue" has given "an interview" and back to France for "une interview".


A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Language is a form of human reason, which has its internal logic of which man knows nothing. -Claude Levi-Strauss, anthropologist (b. 1908)

This week's theme
Terms from French

This week's words
passe-partout
tranche
beau monde
bien-pensant
pas de deux

Next week's theme
There's a word for it

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