June 09, 2008

#01-119: The French Connection - Part IV

black-and-white movie still of the silhouette of a woman facing a man, both full-length, in what might be '40s clothing; fog swirling around them
Still photo from a film noir

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 watched a film noir, or used a nom de plume?

Bon jour! Since Lesson #01-116 we have been looking at almost-pure French expressions used in English.

Why are there so many?

Well, as I described In that lesson, it's because English has been borrowing French words for a thousand years. England and France have been both enemies and friends during those years, but either way, the relationship has always been a close one.

Another reason is that many English speakers feel that French is a "classy" sounding language. They think that peppering their speech with French expressions makes them sound well educated, or even high class. Others deny this, saying overuse of French expressions makes the speaker sound like a "phony." You be the judge!

Here are some more phrases:

  • film noir: Literally "black film," a type of film featuring crime stories, usually from the 1940s or 50s, with dark atmospheres. "Some critics consider Casablanca to be a film noir; others disagree." [equally accented: film nwar]
  • hors d'oeuvre: A starter or appetizer served before a meal. It literally means "outside of the work," meaning not part of the main meal. Be careful in pronunciation: in English the v and the r change places! [accent on the last syllable: or DURVE]
  • joie de vivre: Literally "joy of living," a sense of well-being. "People who buy Zippy Cola experience increased joie de vivre every time they drink our beverage!" [accent on the first and last syllables: ZHWAH duh VEE (or VEEV or sometimes VEEV-ruh)]
  • nom de plume: Literally "pen name," this is a pseudonym (like an "alias") used by an author. This expression has a strange history: it was actually coined in England to describe English writers, and was later borrowed into French (though I'm told pseudonyme is more common). "Mark Twain, was the 'nom de plume' of Samuel L. Clemens." [accent on the first and last syllables: NOM duh PLOOM]
  • nouveau riche: Literally "new (or newly) rich," it describes what we might call the "self-made" man or woman, who earned his or her own fortune. This is in contrast to those who inherited their money. In times past the term may have been somewhat derogatory, as the "old money" felt that the newly rich were a rough, uneducated bunch. In the 21st century, however, with examples like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, the term has a newfound respectability. [accent on the last syllable: noo voh REESH]

We'll learn one more set of French expressions in Lesson #01-120!


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

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

  1. film noir
  2. hors d'oeuvre
  3. joie de vivre
  4. nom de plume
  5. nouveau riche

  1. an alias for a writer
  2. someone who made his or her own fortune without inheriting it
  3. an appetizer served before a meal
  4. a genre of dark, stylish movies featuring crime stories
  5. the feeling that life is very, very good

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for June 9, 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.

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