Monday, March 23, 2009

French For Le Snob, by Yvette Reche

People who study the history of the English language know that it enjoyed a huge injection of French words after the Norman invasion of 1066. Little do we realise it, but when we speak our modern English, we also pepper it with all sorts of French loanwords.

French words to do with government and food were especially influential. Hence our politicians meet in parliament, a French word from the verb parler, to speak.

Author Yvette Reche has an interest in food, fashion, art and architecture, and so each of these subjects gets its own chapter. Yet I think she could have added another chapter on government loanwords from the French.

No matter. This is a fun and lively book which will have you constantly saying to yourself, ‘I never knew that word came from the French.’ Reche also offers lots of interesting little histories of various words. If you enjoy this sort of trivia, and like to know the provenance of the words you use, then you will very much enjoy this book.

I was surprised to learn that parmesan is a French word for the original Italian parmiggiano. Why do we use the French and not the Italian original? If I was Italian I’d be annoyed.
My favourite word in the book was claqueur, for some one who belonged to a claque, a group paid to applaud someone.

There are so many words listed in the book you of course will only remember a handful of them, yet it will certainly leave you with an overall ‘feel’ for the French language.

No comments: