Questions about English relating to French.

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50
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22answers
9k views

Are there any “fake” French words used in English?

Are there any "fake" French words used in English? By "fake French" I mean words that are of French origin but are not actually correct French. This could happen if the word changes as it becomes ...
19
votes
7answers
100k views

Pronunciation of “cache”

I have been pronouncing the word "cache" as kaysh. I know a few people who pronounce it more like cash, cashay or even catch. After consulting a few dictionaries, it turns out that the correct ...
16
votes
2answers
1k views

“Quyer” When and why did the spelling change so drastically?

The snippet above is taken from The Gentleman's Magazine (London, England), Volume 53, dated, 1783. It's only when you say Quyer out loud, do you realize what the word is. It is one of the ...
16
votes
5answers
2k views

Why does “attach” have two Ts but “detach” only one?

The title says it all. We have two words: attach detach Shouldn't they be ...? attach dettach Or …? atach detach
15
votes
10answers
3k views

What could be a snappy equivalent for the French catchphrase “si c'est gratuit vous êtes le produit”?

"Si c'est gratuit vous êtes le produit" can be translated literally as "If it's free then you are the product". It expresses the idea that if something is free (like Facebook) then the information ...
14
votes
4answers
1k views

What is the translation of the French word “erre”?

In French, there is a word erre which is the residual speed of a train, a ship or a car (or whatever is moving and needs propulsion). For example, if you see a red light in your car, you stop ...
14
votes
3answers
5k views

It's too cute! But what is “it”?

Sometime on the Internet we see some cute cat doing some cute things: And because of that, an English speaker will say: It's too cute. Because I'm French, and in French we have no good equivalent ...
13
votes
19answers
10k views

Single word for a very small amount of time [closed]

In French, if I want to quantify a very small amount of time (but not fixed: it can be 5 ms or 0.1 ms) I can use a pouième. Is there an equivalent in English? I'm not looking for an expression but ...
12
votes
7answers
7k views

What's the English equivalent for the French expression “veille technologique”?

In French, the expression veille technologique means the act of following the current trends in technology. Is there such a phrase in English? I can only think of expressions like keeping up to date ...
12
votes
6answers
5k views

Is there an idiom that conveys the meaning of the French “mi figue mi raisin”?

The French idiom “mi figue, mi raisin” (literally: “half fig, half grape”) refers to someone or something that is neither entirely good, nor entirely bad. I guess the meaning of the expression can be ...
11
votes
7answers
1k views

English Idiom 'cut the apple in half'

There is a French idiom, which translated word-for-word is Let's cut the apple in two It means both parties will benefit from 50% of the requested initial negotiated deal. Can this idiom be ...
9
votes
2answers
11k views

Normans vs. Saxons: cow = beef, sheep = mutton, chicken =?

The story goes that after the Norman invasion of England, the words in English for prepared foods took on their French equivalents. The Saxon serfs bred the cows, sheep, and swine, which when served ...
8
votes
1answer
1k views

Spelling of the word “connoisseur”

From what I gathered on the Web, "connoisseur" is spelled that way because it is derived from the old french verb "connoître" (to know) which has been spelled "connaître" for close to two centuries. ...
8
votes
1answer
137 views

Is there any Saxon word that contains /ʒ/?

Is there any Saxon (native) word that contains /ʒ/? All words containing that sound I can think of such as genre, garage, luge, vision, visual, etc. are from French.
7
votes
4answers
5k views

“S'il vous plaît” = “If you please”?

In Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot detective stories, Poirot uses the phrase “if you please” a lot. Does this come from the French phrase “s’il vous plaît”?
7
votes
1answer
9k views

Is there an equivalent for French “CQFD”

In French, when concluding a demonstration, we say "CQFD", which stands for "Ce Qu'il Fallait Démontrer" (What was to be demonstrated). Does English have an equivalent for this ?
7
votes
2answers
637 views

How did “invoice” end up with an 's'-sound?

The Etymonline entry for invoice states (source): apparently from M.Fr. envois, pl. of envoi "dispatch (of goods)," Although my French is pretty poor, my understanding is that the 's' is silent. ...
7
votes
2answers
3k views

When citing a French citation in the original, should the guillemets (angle quotes) be changed? What about punctuation order?

I’ve come across a puzzling punctuation problem! I’m working on a document in US English. It includes a citation of a French text in the original French, and this citation includes a citation (all in ...
7
votes
1answer
209 views

The X in Xavier

The NOAD lists the pronunciation of Xavier as (ig)ˈzāvēər. In my own experience the parenthetical pronunciation is very common. I, however, do not know of any other x-initial words that are vowel-...
6
votes
3answers
39k views

Does the etymology of the word “government” mean “to control the mind”?

I've heard some conspiracy theorists say that government, when broken down into its root Latin words, means "to control the mind". I'm wondering if this is really true or not. Is it? Edit: My own ...
6
votes
3answers
202 views

How did 'countenance' evolve to mean 'support or approval'?

[OED:] The extension of sense from ‘mien, aspect’ to ‘face’ appears to be English: compare French use of mine. [ Etymonline for 'countenance (v.)' ] late 15c., "to behave or act," from ...
6
votes
3answers
167 views

'Parasitic' Phonemes

In searching for the reason for the message -> messenger shift, I came across the theory of the 'parasitic n.' Essentially, the idea is that during the post-Norman Conquests period in England, ...
5
votes
3answers
567 views

English translation for the different parts of a course as found in French schools/universities

What would be the transposition to the US school/university system of the French expressions: “cours” (that is lecture, listening to the teacher) “travaux dirigés” (lit. directed works, students ...
5
votes
5answers
2k views

Is “life is hard without jam” in use?

I am looking for a translation of the French "la vie est dure sans confiture". Babel Fish gives me "life is hard without jam". But I am not sure whether this phrase is really in use. Are there ...
5
votes
5answers
285 views

Translation of « débrayable » for camera modes and automatic software processing

I am French and I am looking for how to express the concept of the French word débrayable: Something débrayable is able to be manually configured as opposed of something which is always automatically ...
5
votes
4answers
5k views

Why do 'fine words butter no parsnips'?

I was at a dinner last night where some rather nice herb butter was served with the vegetables. Conversation close to me then turned to the English expression 'Fine words butter no parsnips'. It ...
5
votes
2answers
2k views

Are there religious swear words in English the way there are in French-speaking Québec (like “Câlisse!”)?

Are there in English any cases of using religious words for swear words, most likely in predominantly Christian regions? I ask because in the Canadian province of Québec, which is primarily ...
5
votes
3answers
1k views

Pronunciation of foreign words by foreign speakers

I've used English for a long time and it isn't immediately obvious to others that I'm native French. Whenever I speak a French word or place name in English I wonder whether I should pronounce it like ...
4
votes
4answers
850 views

A French Phrase Similar to “Expertise”

I am looking for a phrase that is used occasionally in English as a near synonym of "expertise". For some reason, "coup d'mentarie" keeps going through my mind, but I don't believe this actually means ...
4
votes
3answers
543 views

“à la” + masculine

I'd like to say I'm baking a cake à la Ramsey. Here, à la means in the style of. My problem is: what if Ramsey is male? The French la goes with feminine nouns. So, should I write the following? ...
4
votes
1answer
1k views

English words of Latin origin: Did they replace existing words?

According to Wikipedia, the Latin influence on English builds more than half of its vocabulary. The same source furnishes a percentage of 26% for words of Germanic origin. Although I can easily ...
4
votes
3answers
2k views

English for “À l’abordage!”?

Basically, pirates would use the term À l’abordage! as a battle cry when boarding enemy ships like described in the phrase’s Wiktionary entry. Is there a English translation for this, or is it an ...
4
votes
1answer
204 views

Antonym of “crème de la crème”

The phrase "crème de la crème" means to be the best of the best. Is there a phrase that means the opposite of this, that is, to be the worst of the worst? The phrase doesn't have to come from French.
4
votes
2answers
588 views

Etymology of 'just' as an adverb and its French connection

Just (adj.): late 14c., "righteous in the eyes of God; upright, equitable, impartial; justifiable, reasonable," from O.Fr. juste "just, righteous; sincere" (12c.), from L. iustus "upright, ...
4
votes
1answer
94 views

Why do definite articles seem implicit in English?

I was thinking about the translation for "life" (as in everyday living) in french which translates "vie". However, in spoken language you would always refer to "la vie" in french and never to "the ...
4
votes
2answers
178 views

“Bon/bonne chance!”: spelling and loanword specifics?

The adjective bon crossed over the Channel "in phrases such as bon apétit (1860), literally "good appetite;" bon-ton (1744) "good style;" bon mot." (Online Etymology Dictionary) Also with bon, bon-...
3
votes
5answers
22k views

English equivalent of the French custom “l'apéro”

In France, when gathered with friends, it is customary to drink beers or other light alcohol around 7pm, and this time is called apéritif (or apéro). Does this custom have an English (UK and/or US) ...
3
votes
3answers
2k views

Is “enroute” an acceptable variant of “en route”?

Is "enroute" (without the space) an acceptable variant of "en route"?
3
votes
4answers
213 views

What is a good translation of “crâne de piaf” as a nickname?

I'm looking for a translation of "Crâne de piaf", in English, in the context of a nickname given to some fictional character. Also, take note that I am native from France. What I'm looking for, ...
3
votes
2answers
304 views

How common is the French loanword “métier”?

Our daughter lives in Leeds and is a scientist too, although not in my field, her speciality is haematology. My son lives in Manchester at the moment, for the music scene, he says. He writes his own ...
3
votes
1answer
151 views

How did 'ply' evolve into these 4 different definitions?

ply = {with object} 1. Work steadily with (a tool) 2. {no object, with adverbial of direction} (Of a vessel or vehicle) travel regularly over a route, typically for commercial purposes 3....
3
votes
1answer
401 views

How can choosing to speak in English rather than French have an emotional impact on me? [closed]

I’ve grown up speaking two languages. I can seamlessly swap between French and English, but somehow I often feel like I can’t speak my mind when speaking French. When it comes to things that are ...
3
votes
1answer
75 views

Term for “the class of landlords”

I have heard in several spoken discussions a term (which sounds kind of French and is maybe related to the English verb "rent") for the class of landlords - people who live off renting out properties ...
3
votes
1answer
751 views

How to use “extraordinaire” in English?

I’d like to include the following phrase in my children’s book: with trumpets and fanfares extraordinaire I don’t know whether it should instead be with trumpets and fanfares ...
3
votes
1answer
566 views

When can the word “Noel” be used?

I came across the word "Noel" in a Christmas song recently. I only knew the French word "Noël" before so I looked "Noel" up in Leo. [Leo states] Noel also: Noël French - used especially ...
2
votes
1answer
249 views

Why do the French say “dent” where the English say "tooth? [closed]

I am preparing for an exam in "Earlier Englishes" and I have following question out of a mock exam: Why do the French say dent where the English say tooth? The answer gives 3 points, so may be there ...
2
votes
2answers
535 views

Qualification title for French “diplôme d'ingénieur”

My Google-fu has maybe failed me, but I couldn't find an authoritative source about the correct English qualification title for a French diplôme d'ingénieur. Some sources say the title is M.Sc., ...
2
votes
1answer
1k views

Possession in Compound Nouns [duplicate]

In a compound noun with a postpositive adjective, such as "Director-General" or "Court Martial," the noun is pluralized by using the plural form of the first word (i.e. "Directors-General" or "Courts ...
2
votes
2answers
4k views

Is “a/an” an example of liaison in English?

French there is a process called liaison, where final consonants are omitted unless the next word starts with a vowel. Would it be accurate to say that the English indefinite article (a/an) is an ...
2
votes
1answer
458 views

Reference request: the pronunciation of Law French?

Would anyone happen to know of a systematic account of the English pronunciation of legal and parliamentary terms and phrases of Anglo-Norman French origin, or more generally, of Law French? When it ...