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Apr 4, 2011
This week's theme
Words borrowed from French

This week's words
soubrette
beau geste
volte-face
entrepot
gris-gris

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

Novelist Stephen King once said, "French is the language that turns dirt into romance." Is that why it is called a Romance language? But it's true that we equate all things French with sophistication, whether it's food, clothing, art, or dirt.

As many as 30% of the words in the English language are of French origin (depending on whom you ask). That sure is a lot of romance. This week we'll feature five words borrowed from French, with and without romance.

soubrette

PRONUNCIATION:
(soo-BRET)

MEANING:
noun:
1. A maidservant or lady's maid in a play or an opera, especially one who displays coquetry and engages in intrigue.
2. A young woman regarded as flirtatious.
3. A soprano who sings supporting roles in comic opera.

ETYMOLOGY:
From French soubrette (maidservant), from Provenšal soubreto, feminine of soubret (coy), from soubra (to set aside), from Latin superare (to be above). Ultimately from the Indo-European root uper (over) which is also the source of over, sovereign, super, supreme, sirloin, soprano, somersault, and hyper. Earliest documented use: 1753.

USAGE:
"Paloma Herrera played the soubrette who lures the hero from his longtime girlfriend, abandoning her own fiancé in the process."
Elizabeth Zimmer; Stars in Alignment; The Australian (Sydney); Aug 1, 2009.

"Rebecca Bottone's light soubrette contrasts well with Watts's more voluptuous timbre."
Hugh Canning; Catch Her If You Can; The Sunday Times (London, UK); Nov 8, 2009.

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

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
The root of all superstition is that men observe when a thing hits, but not when it misses. -Francis Bacon, essayist, philosopher, and statesman (1561-1626)

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