In which context should sang-froid be used?
Can you provide an example?
It is really synonymous to composure, self-control, aplomb and poise. The Corpus of Contemporary American English has examples such as:
- “Possessed of somewhat greater sang-froid, Jamie placed one of the bolsters strategically across his lap…”
- “For a moment his face became a white mask of horror, but he soon recovered his sang-froid, and looking up at Lady Windermere, said with a forced smile…”
- “Famously nothing shocks New Yorkers, and that urban sang-froid is precisely the spirit of N.Y.C.”
It seems mostly used in fiction.
Sang-froid and cold blood are what the French call "faux amis". Although it literally means "cold blood", a more appropriate modern translation for "garder son sang froid" would be "to keep one's cool".
Synonyms for "sang froid" would be cool and collected.
He approached the job interview with sang-froid. He was cool, calm, and collected, as if ice-water were coursing through his veins. He seemed to keep his heart rate in check simply through force of will.
He executed the bank heist with utter sang-froid — ice in his veins and no pity in his heart.
To my ear, sangfroid's closest synonym is cool-headedness, though unflappability comes close, too, in many contexts.
From Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (p. 63):
The delicate art of cajoler was a lost skill in modern law enforcement, one that required exceptional poise under pressure. Few men possessed the necessary sangfroid for this kind of operation, but Fache seemed born for it. His restraint and patience bordered on the robotic.
Here, "sangfroid" is being applied to a poised French police detective. While it has the literal meaning of "having cold blood," you can pick up the sense of being emotionally constrained rather than heartless ("cold blooded"). (See Zoot's answer about "false friends.")
Used as a quote from the data mining company TLO, this is meant to be a calling of sorts with "doing what has to be done with no emotions". Sometimes attributed to mercenaries... the saying from TLO; "Avec Sang-Froid".
With honor and truth, we protect the weak, the wronged and each other. Generously and fiercely.
Hank Asher, the founder of TLO and affectionately referred to as the "Father of Data Fusion", passed away in January 2013.