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This week's theme
Terms from French

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

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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 beaucoup words in the English language have arrived 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 borrowed word is lent back. 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 are often used in English.

passe-partout

PRONUNCIATION:
(pas-pahr-TOO)

MEANING:
noun:
1. Something, for example a master key, that enables unrestricted access.
2. An ornamental mat used to frame a picture.
3. An adhesive tape used to attach a picture to a mat, glass, backing, etc.

ETYMOLOGY:
From French, literally, passes everywhere, from passer (to pass) + partout (everywhere), from par (through) + tout (all).

USAGE:
"Francesco Isolabella, one of her lawyers, said, 'Marion True is being used as an excuse to criminalize all American museums.' Ms. True should not be used 'as a passe-partout to get at the Getty'."
Elisabetta Povoledo; Casting Blame for Looting In Trial of Getty Ex-Curator; The New York Times; Jan 18, 2007.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
A man should live with his superiors as he does with his fire: not too near, lest he burn; nor too far off, lest he freeze. -Diogenes, philosopher (412?-323 BCE)

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