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Nov 30, 2009
This week's theme
French terms

This week's words
rapporteur
amour-propre
esprit de corps
chef-d'oeuvre
savoir-faire

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

A common misconception is that in the past when an immigrant to the US arrived on Ellis Island, the clerk at the registration office often changed a name, from Kwiatkovski to Kay, for example. While stories of renaming at the port of entry are mostly myths, many names were later anglicized, such as Pedersen becoming Peterson.

Something similar happens with the language. What do the words puny, petty, mayday have in common? Each is a French word that has been adopted into English with a phonetic respelling, from puisné, petit, and m'aidez (literally, Help me).

This week we've picked five French terms that are used in English with little change. They have the same spellings and meanings, though English pronunciations are a little different from their original French.

rapporteur

PRONUNCIATION:
(rap-or-TUHR)

MEANING:
noun:
1. Someone appointed by an organization, group, or committee to investigate or monitor an issue, and compile and present the findings.
2. One who is designated to record the deliberations of a meeting.

ETYMOLOGY:
From French rapporteur (reporter), from rapporter (to bring back, report), from apporter (to bring), from Latin portare (carry). Ultimately from the Indo-European root per- (to lead, pass over) that also gave us support, comport, petroleum, sport, passport, colporteur (a peddler of religious books), Swedish fartlek (a training technique), Norwegian fjord (bay), and Sanskrit parvat (mountain).
The word rapporteur in French has various other meanings besides a reporter, such as an informer or a tattletale, and a protractor.

USAGE:
"The United Nations special rapporteur, Raquel Rolnik, listened to it all patiently, occasionally taking notes, nodding encouragement."
Chris McGreal; UN Meets Homeless Victims of American Property Dream; The Guardian (London, UK); Nov 12, 2009.

See more usage examples of rapporteur in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Reading a book is like rewriting it for yourself. You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms. -Angela Carter, novelist and journalist (1940-1992)

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