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Jul 18, 2011
This week's theme
Words of French origin

This week's words
nouveau riche
voulu
mise en scene
pur sang
coup de main

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

In Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking Glass", the Red Queen tells Alice, "Speak in French when you can't remember the English for a thing." That's perhaps not bad advice considering that many words in the English language have arrived from or via French.

While French is a Romance language and English a Germanic one, the twists and turns of history have led to the two tongues having much in common -- the English language borrowed from French, and vice versa. This borrowing often resulted in English having two near-synonyms to describe something (e.g. freedom/liberty, answer/respond). Sometimes the word then travels back to French. English budget came via French bougette (little bag), and was then exported back to French with its new sense.

This week we'll look at five French terms that have been borrowed into English.

nouveau riche

PRONUNCIATION:
(noo-voh-REESH)

MEANING:
noun: Someone who has recently acquired wealth, especially one who displays this in an ostentatious fashion.

ETYMOLOGY:
From French nouveau riche (new rich). Earliest documented use: 1796. A term coined after this is nouveau pauvre (newly impoverished).

USAGE:
"The mainland's nouveau riche increasingly spend their weekends cruising up and down various waterfronts."
Emma An; Growing Yacht Industry Has Some Wind in Its Sales; China Daily (Beijing); Jun 15, 2011.

See more usage examples of nouveau riche in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
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