French words in English -- cached in plain sight

French words in English -- cached in plain sight

When things go wrong, such as a blog post getting out early and incomplete, there’s always the convenient French expression “Quel horreur!” (Makes it sound and read a bit more dignified than “Oops, readers, I’m sorry!” But I am, and here’s the rest of the story.)

Especially in Chicago, French words are all around us — La Salle Street, the Marquette Building, the signs for Joliet — but it’s not just geography. French words are cached (hidden) in plain sight all over English… especially American English.

That’s been going on for over a century, since La Belle Epoque (the beautiful epoch) —  or was it a fin-de-siecle (end of the century) thing? That second phrase  could mean the 1990s, but doesn’t usually; it tends to refer to the 1890s.

Do you know what you’d buy at Sur La Table? You do if you’ve had a French class — they sell things for On the Table.

When things are all straightened out and you’re “in the pink” you may be tempted to talk about “La Vie en Rose,” from the great song by Edith Piaf.  But while any female singer qualifies for the French word for Piaf’s job, chanteuse, “La Vie en Rose” should be used more carefully. Far from just being “in the pink” or “through rose-colored glasses,” “La Vie en Rose” is one of the more capital-R romantic songs around. Trouble is, in English, it just doesn’t rhyme!


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  • Tres magnifique!

  • Merci, mon ami!

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    And thank you for opening up the cache window.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    You're welcome! You are still the master punster!

  • Well-done! I like the idea of names/words hiding in plain sight...traces of other languages like that, here.....

  • In reply to Weather Girl:

    Thanks! Glad you picked up on where I cached "cached," so to speak.

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