June 05, 2008

#01-118: The French Connection - Part III

a suburban street ends in a "dumbbell" shaped cul-de-sac, with several cars parked around it
A cul-de-sac in California

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: Have you ever had déjà vu, or committed a faux pas?

Today we'll continue with French expressions used in English, which we started in Lesson #01-116 and continued in #01-117. Remember that the pronunciation notes are an approximation of how the words are said in English; apologies to French speakers!

  • C'est la vie! "That's life!" or maybe "That's how it goes!" This is a philosophical expression used when things go wrong. "I missed my flight! Oh, well. C'est la vie!" [accent on the last syllable: say la VEE]
  • cinéma vérité: "Cinema truth" or "true cinema." A style of film-making that uses realism, especially used in documentaries. There is usually no script or direction; real people are filmed speaking their own thoughts. "Was Borat scripted, or is it cinema verite?" [cinema as usual, then vair-ee-TAY]
  • cul-de-sac: Meaning something like "the bottom of the bag [sack!]," it describes a sort of dead-end street, usually one that has houses all the way around it (rather than just ending in a wall). It can also be used figuratively: "It will take us some time to reverse our sales decline and get out of this cul-de-sac." [usually equally accented, or perhaps a slight emphasis on the first syllable: CULL-duh-sack]
  • déjà vu: Literally "already seen," it can be used to describe the general feeling that you have seen or felt something before, but it can also describe a very specific, strange phenomenon. Sometimes we have an odd sense that what we are seeing has happened that way before exactly as it's happening. We may event comment on this ("I'm having déjà vu") and feel we said that before, too! But in the general sense, it can just mean a familiar feeling: "The success of our sales year after year is starting to feel like déjà vu." [equally accented: day-zhah-voo]
  • de rigueur: Required; often used in discussing fashion. "Ties will be de rigueur for male employees..." [accent on the last syllable: day ruh-GER]
  • du jour: Literally "of the day"; used to describe changing menu items ("soup du jour"), and also changeable items or practices. "Ron brought his girlfriend du jour to the party." [accent on the last syllable: doo ZHUR]
  • en masse: All together, as one group. "The audience rose en masse and gave a standing ovation." [equally accented: en mass, or sometimes on mass]
  • en route: On the way. "We are en route to the meeting now." [equally accented: en root; seldom en rowt; as with "en masse" the first syllable may sound like "on"]
  • faux pas: Literally "false step," describes a mistake in etiquette. "Failing to thank the host or hostess is a serious faux pas." [equally accented: fo paw]

There is such a profusion (originally a French word!) of French expressions in English that we'll keep going next week!


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

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

  1. C'est la vie!
  2. cinema verité
  3. cul-de-sac
  4. de rigueur
  5. déjà vu
  6. du jour
  7. en masse
  8. en route
  9. faux pas
  10. profusion

  1. current; the one for right now
  2. There's not much I/we can do about it!
  3. the feeling that you've seen something before
  4. realism in film
  5. expected; possibly even required
  6. a kind of dead-end street, but with houses around the end
  7. coming now; on the way
  8. a large amount
  9. a social mistake
  10. in one group

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for June 5, 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. d; 3. f; 4. e; 5. c; 6. a; 7. j; 8. g; 9. i; 10. h