2

I checked two dictionaries, Merriam-Webster1 and Collins, and both define à la in a similar way: i.e., in the manner or style of a particular person.

But dictionaries are sometimes incomplete. I wanted to know if there are any other common uses of à la.2 Would any of these uses work?

  1. We often make choices without knowing, à la Freud's unconscious.
  2. Stick it out, à la Résistance — the cause is worth fighting for.
  3. They hacked our election à la Russia.

1 On Merriam-Webster, you have to scroll down to find the preposition à la.
2 I know about à la mode and à la carte, but not interested in those.

  • Before someone beats me to it, I think the most closely related question on Stack Exchange would be this one. But the questions are very different. And while the accepted answer touches on my question, the examples it gives are by no means comprehensive, nor do they completely answer my question. Furthermore, those examples are in French, not English. – ktm5124 Nov 6 '17 at 9:16
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1

There are already phrases borrowed into English from French which use "à la" in exactly the manner you intend; for example there is "service à la Russe" or "service in the style of Russia(ns)", meaning serving a meal in courses (yes, the Russians pretty much invented that; previously all courses were piled up on the table together and you took your pick). There is also "à la Grecque" (in the Greek style or manner) and other examples. In actual fact, dictionary.com gives the following definition:

preposition

  1. according to; in the manner of: a short poem à la Ogden Nash.

  2. Cookery. prepared in the manner of, to the taste of, or by: chicken à la provençale. prepared with the ingredient of.

You can usually assume that "à la" means in the style or manner of anything, not just a person. All though I have to say that if I see "à la" followed by anything other than a French word or someone's name it does look a bit clumsy to me, but that's just personal preference.

  • Thanks. Your opinion on the subject is convincing. It might even explain why my second example (from the above question, and first suggested by Mary-Lou A) seems the most natural of the three: it's the only one that uses a French word after the phrase. – ktm5124 Nov 7 '17 at 23:35
3

An Elephind search of old newspapers finds a number of examples from the early and middle 1800s of places and things being given the à la treatment. For example, from "Extracts from a Journal," in the Hobart [Tasmania] Town Courier (March 22 1828):

Tuesday, March 18, [1828] Alas! my unhappy head (my heels rather, you will say). Terpsichore forgive me, how did I get here?—what a confoundedly late time of day! ...

—At ten went to the Ball. No, that will not do

—Here then you have it, à la Morning Post.

This evening the spacious apartments recently erected in the Barrack-square, were thrown open by the Officers of the 40th Regiment, to a numerous and fashionable assemblage of their friends, for a splendid Ball and Supper, to which most of the principal inhabitants had received cards.

From "Domestic Intelligence," in the Sydney [New South Wales] Herald (September 18, 1834):

A LARK. A ci-devant actress at the Royal and a greasy looking Jack Tar, were picked up by one of the Sydney Blues, on Tuesday night last, playing two of the principal characters in Tom and Jerry, those of Corinthian Kate, and Corinthian Tom ; the lady taking the character of Tom, attired à la Bond-street, and the tar, in a suit of the lady's best, that of Kate. To add to the perfection of the characters, Mistress Tom had a cigar in in her cheek, puffing away with much nonchalance, and Master Kate was making a few modest bites at a cheese-cake.

From "Domestic Intelligence," in the Sydney [New South Wales] Herald (April 23, 1841):

ATTEMPT TO MURDER. On Wednesday evening, between seven and eight o'clock, a manaic [sic], arrayed à la harlequin, named William Larbetter, and a female named Ann Driggs, were given in charge of the police, by Mr. Brown of the Parramatta road, on a charge of attempting murder. When taken, they were both drunk ; the male prisoner was armed with a tremendous knife, about fifteen inches long. A few months since the same man was had up at the police-office, for creating a disturbance in the Roman Catholic chapel, by entering it habited like a pilgrim.

From "The Prince and the Actor," reprinted from Bentley's Miscellany, in the [Hobart, Tasmania] Courier (July 15, 1842):

The bills of the day announced, that between the acts of the comedy Prince Annamaboo would give a lively representation of the scalping operation, sound the Indian war whoop in all its melodious tones, practise the tomahawk exercise, and dine à la cannibal. An intelligent mob was collected to witness these interesting exploits.

From "Californian News: Straws from the Gold Coast: No. 7," in the Sydney [New South Wales] Morning Herald (November 278, 1849):

Most people who never tried it would think it a great sacrifice to be deprived of the pleasure of taking meals from neat cookery-with silver forks, at a quiet social table, spread with snow white linen. But experience proves, that victuals taste well in the open air, taken from the pans, with nature's primitive forks, by a hungry company, seated à la Turk, under the shade of an evergreen oak. At all events, this is the mode of life with which gold hunters become conversant, and their luxuries, like those of the Lacedemonians, are quite simple in their character.

And from "News from the Interior: Wollongong," in the Sydney [New South Wales] Morning Herald (July 28, 1851):

We should like to know by what manner of means the Sydney Morning Herald, of Monday, did not make its appearance in Wollongong on the following morning (Tuesday), as usual. On arriving at the Post Office, we saw many individuals with most lugubrious countenances, and simultaneously the cry was heard, "How is this? no Herald to-day! have the French taken the city? or has the metropolis been devastated à la San Francisco? &c., &c." But certain it is, whatever may have been the cause, the non-arrival of the Herald caused much disappointment and vexation, ...

It thus appears that à la has long been used in publications written for English readers to convey the sense of "in the manner of" or "in the style of" as applied not just to particular people but to particular places or things.

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