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Terms from French

This week's words
bon ton
moue
au fait
clou
pied-a-terre

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

The great humorist Mark Twain once said, "In Paris they simply stared when I spoke to them in French; I never did succeed in making those idiots understand their language." Well, that's the pitfall of learning a foreign language away from its natural habitat. We might become proficient in the grammar but there is never a certainty about the nuances of the language.

No matter. Some of the terms we borrow from French have now become part of the English language. They often help us convey a whole idea succinctly just in a word or two. This week we'll look at five of them.

A note about pronunciation: When we adopt words from other languages, we don't always adopt their pronunciations as well. So the pronunciation suggestions given with these words reflect how they're generally pronounced in English.

bon ton

PRONUNCIATION:
(bon ton)

MEANING:
noun:
1. Good form or style.
2. Something regarded as fashionably right.
3. High society.

ETYMOLOGY:
From French, literally, good tone.

USAGE:
"It was bon ton to knock Netanyahu and very few top Likudniks resisted the temptation. Netanyahu's prime-ministerial stint (1996-1999) was doomed."
Sarah Honig; Jabotinsky Who?; The Jerusalem Post (Israel); Jan 16, 2004.

"Evelyn and I were impostors -- not members of the bon ton but a visiting, unembarrassed American couple."
Roger Angell; La Vie En Rose; The New Yorker; Feb 16, 2004.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Power is only important as an instrument for service to the powerless. -Lech Walesa, human rights activist, Polish president, Nobel laureate (b. 1943)

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