Monday 14 January 2008

French expressions in English but not French

Frogs Legs
Originally uploaded by malias.

Any educated English speaker coming to France, even if he has never studied the language before arrives armed with a wealth of French words and expressions such as bon voyage, bon apétit, coup d'état etc.

What they may find surprising is that many of these gallicisms are not actually used by the French themselves. When I apply some of these in conversation my words are met with shrugs on incomprehension on the part of my interlocutor. Haute cuisine, double entendre, venue, piece de resistance, risqué and nobody has used sacrebleu here since the 18th century.

Even stranger are French expressions used in English where the French use an English one. We say crème de la crème they say top du top. We say passé they say has been.

So when searching the mot juste make sure you don't commit a faux pas.

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