June 03, 2008

#01-117: The French Connection - Part II

mug shot with numbers below it of a handsome black man looking exhausted
In 1995, O. J. Simpson was a cause célèbre.

Note: In Lessons #01-116 to #01-120, we're looking at French expressions used in English--not the many "borrow words," but "pure French."

Get Ready: When would you say "bon appetit"? How about "bon voyage"? Or "au contraire"?

Bon jour! Today we will continue our exploration of French words in English that we began in Lesson #01-116. I have added pronunciation notes. Sometimes these are close to the French pronunciation; other times they're quite different, because we've changed the pronunciation to suit our "English mouths." Francophones: It's French words in ENGLISH! Excusez-moi!

Note, by the way, that many words are close to their English equivalents: carte = card, contraire = contrary, etc. These are usually words borrowed from French into English.

  • à la carte: Literally, "on the card." It refers to items on a menu aside from any set meals. "Would you like a set meal, or would you like to order a few items a la carte?" [accent on the last word: a la CART]
  • au contraire: "On the contrary." We use both the French and English expressions when we need to contradict something that has been said. "The finance department thinks we'll lose money next quarter. Au contraire, I predict huge profits." [accent on the last syllable: o cone-TRAIR]
  • au naturel: "In a natural condition." While this could refer to uncooked food, or even hair that doesn't look highly styled, be careful: it can also mean "in the nude." "The ad campaign might be more successful if the models appeared au naturel." [accent on the last syllable: o nah-tu-RELL]
  • au pair: "On a par" or "equal to." This is an arrangement where a young foreigner (usually female) lives with a family to help with household chores, childcare, etc. Slightly different from a domestic helper, the au pair is considered more-or-less "one of the family," as the name implies. "It's easier to travel on business now that we have an au pair to care for the kids." [accent on the second word: o PAIR]
  • bon appetit: (also spelled [or misspelled] bon appetite, bon appettite, etc.) Literally "good appetite," it means, "Enjoy your meal." "Here is your entrée, sir; bon appetit!" [accent on the last syllable: bone a-pe-TEET or a-pe-TEE]
  • bon voyage! "Good journey!" Used in the same way as "Have a nice trip!" [The second word has two syllables, with the accent on the second: bone voy-AHZH]
  • carte blanche: Literally "white card," it's similar in meaning to the English "blank check," meaning "full discretionary power." "Once you're on site, Smithers, do whatever you have to; I'm giving you carte blanche." [cart blongch]
  • cause célèbre: "Celebrated [or famous] case," an issue that is usually controversial and much discussed by the public. "Called the 'Trial of the Century,' the O.J. Simpson case was a cause célèbre." [accent on the last syllable: cose sul-LEB; sometimes sul-LEB-ruh]

We'll see even more French words in Lesson #01-118. Au revoir!


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossary_of_French_expressions_in_English

Practice: Match the French words to their meaning in English:

  1. à la carte
  2. au contraire
  3. au naturel
  4. au pair
  5. bon appetit
  6. bon voyage!
  7. carte blanche
  8. cause célèbre
  9. excusez-moi
  10. Francophones

  1. Have a nice trip!
  2. side dishes, for example
  3. a "hot topic"
  4. the power to do what one thinks is best
  5. pardon me
  6. naked
  7. I disagree
  8. Enjoy your meal.
  9. people who speak French
  10. a nanny

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for June 3, 2008

Some of the words in this lesson received 326 visits (and another 173 visits on a re-post) on my old site between June, 2012, and August, 2021.

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. b; 2. g; 3. f; 4. j; 5. h; 6. a; 7. d; 8. c; 9. e; 10. i