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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 become an integral part of the English language. They often help us convey a whole idea succinctly, in just a word or two. This week let's see five such terms from French.

degringolade (day-grang-guh-LAYD) noun

A rapid decline, deterioration, or collapse (of a situation).

[From French, from dégringoler (to tumble down, fall sharply), from Middle French desgringueler, from des- (de-) + gringueler (to tumble), from Middle Dutch crinkelen (to curl).]

-Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)

"Even before the latest degringolade, Mr Duncan Smith's position had been disintegrating." Bruce Anderson; This is Duncan Smith's Last Stand; The Independent (London, UK); Feb 24, 2003.


Earth is here so kind, that just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest. -Douglas William Jerrold, playwright and humorist (1803-1857)

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