Thomas Russell Wingate
April, June 2011
July, August, December 2012
California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco
August 1973 (age 26).
The verb entreprendre—“to undertake (to do something, to get something done)”—has provided English with two nouns: enterprise and entrepreneur.
|la paperasserie||red tape, paperwork|
Point d’argent, point de Suisses.
No money (silver), no Swiss [mercenary soldiers]; no one will bleed for you without being paid; talk is not pay.
Qui s’excuse, s’accuse.
Who excuses himself, accuses himself.
Le monde va de lui-même.
The world goes by itself.
Le style, c’est l’homme.
The style is the man.
Mais où sont les neiges d’antan?
But where are the snows of yesteryear?
(François Villon; the most famous line in French literature.)
In English, kilometer and kiloliter are pronounced to rhyme with “pillow eater.”
This is easy to remember.
Barometer and thermometer do not rhyme with international units of distance and volume. How ignorant are you willing to appear?
Klick is a barbarism. A writer may have a soldier use it in speaking, but in his own narrative and conversation the writer, being in the written culture, should shun it. Apocalypse Now should not set a trend.
Laissez les bons temps rouler.
Let the good times roll.
Laissez rouler les bons temps.
hors d’oeuvres (“oar doves”, “oar dervz”)
hors-d’oeuvre (masculine singular and plural)
Nom de plume
Nom de théâtre
Nom de guerre
Nom de cyber
|Bohemia (country)||La Bohême|
|Bohemia (lifestyle, Puccini)||La Bohème|
|The Hague||La Haye|
|New Orleans||La Nouvelle-Orléans|
(also Colony, Province)
|Jordan (country)||Jordanie (f)|
|Jordan (river)||Jourdain (m)|
|Delphi (Greece)||Delphes (fpl)|
|Golden Horn (Istanbul, Vladivostok)||Corne (f) d’Or|
|Golden Gate (San Francisco)||Barrière (f) d’Or|
The Sunday Times (London) cannot resist assuring us: “To be born an English-speaker is to win one of the top prizes in life’s lottery. And this can be said without a hint of triumphalism, sexism, or racism, without annoying anybody much except the French.”
French happily exports cachet, connoisseur, de luxe, elegance, elite, etiquette, finesse, grandeur, intrigue, largesse,nuance, panache, premiere, prestige, promenade, rationale, and regime. Does it not (silently, indirectly) speak worlds that English attempts no replacements?
National symbols are meant to attract abiding attention. Often they do this by ignoring realities.
On the royal arms of England we see a lion, a unicorn, and a motto in Norman French. The badge of the Order of the Garter also bears a motto in Norman French.
On the royal standard of Scotland we see a red lion walking upright, fenced in by eight red fleurs-de-lis. The badge of the Order of the Thistle bears a motto in Latin.
On the flag of Wales we see a red winged dragon that can have no hope of getting airborne.
The absence of English is as conspicuous as the presence of animals and flowers not native to any part of Great Britain.
In two centuries France has undergone a tizzy of regime changes. One thing they all had in common: their mottos and slogans were entirely in French.
France has the best of all national symbols: Marianne. In some sense, she belongs in your arms or your son’s.
Anatole France¹ was as French as French can be.
La langue française est une femme. Et cette femme est si belle, si fière, si modeste, si hardie, si touchante, si voluptueuse, si chaste, si noble, si familière, si folle, si sage, qu’on l’aime du toute son âme, et qu’on n’est jamais tenté de lui être infidèle.
The French language is a woman. And that woman is so beautiful, so proud, so modest, so bold, so touching, so voluptuous, so chaste, so noble, so familiar, so mad, so wise, that one loves her with all one’s soul, and is never tempted to be unfaithful to her.
Whether English is our first or second language, we don’t personify it that way.²
Their most recent constitution (1958) tells you at the start what Frenchmen cherish most.
The language of the Republic shall be French.
The national emblem shall be the blue, white and red tricolour flag.
The national anthem shall be La Marseillaise.
The motto of the Republic shall be «Liberty Equality Fraternity».
Its principle shall be: government of the people, by the people, for the people.
Lincoln’s famous words are not his own.
This Bible is for the Government of the People, by the People, and for the People.
Thus did Wycliffe explain his English translation (1384).³
Two mongrel languages keep trying to outdo each other
Diplomatic officers emphasize their importance and legal status by French initials placed after their names and upon automobile plates.
C.D. Corps (m) Diplomatique.
Or, in imperishable jest: contrabandeur (m) distingué (“high-class smuggler”).
Pooling three thick bilingual dictionaries, we find:
auteur (m): author, maker, originator; founder (of race); perpetrator (of crime); promoter, sponsor (of scheme); achiever, contriver, framer; by extension and context: painter, sculptor, composer, inventor, etc. // femme auteur (m): woman writer // droit (m) d’auteur: copyright // droits (mpl) d’auteur: royalties.
distingué(e)(adj): distinguished; eminent, noted (writer, politician, etc.); refined (taste, hearing, etc.) gentlemanly, ladylike, genteel; elegant; smart (costume) // avoir un air distingué: to look distinguished // naissance distinguée: high (noble) birth.
French culture carefully and permanently elevates the auteur above the écrivain (“writer”), who is in turn superior to the écrivassier (“scribbler”). Money is irrelevant here.
lettres (fpl): letters, literature // belles-lettres (fpl): humanities // homme (m) de lettres: man of letters // femme (f) de lettres, bas-bleu (m): woman of letters, bluestocking // lettré(e) (adj): lettered, literate // lettré (m) scholar // les lettrés (mpl): the literati.
Scrutineers of this website are well on their ways to becoming auteurs distingués.
The Story of French (2006) by Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow is an unmatched overview beautifully told. You will be eager to amplify my recommendation.
1 See Wikipedia.
2 See Bits of English III on website for a recent counter-example.
3 See Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. See Wikipedia for John Wycliffe,
William Tyndale, and what befell them, their writings, and theirfollowers