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A.Word.A.Day--au contraire

Pronunciation Sound Clip RealAudio

This week's theme: terms imported from other languages.

au contraire (oh kon-TRAIR) noun

On the contrary.

[From French au contraire (on the contrary).]

On the face of it, there seems no reason to prefer au contraire to "on the contrary". The meaning is obvious whether it's expressed in French or English. True, the French version is two words rather than three but the saving is minimal and beside the point. The value of au contraire, therefore, lies with the slightly camp context in which it's usually found. An earnest argument demands "on the contrary", but an opposing point of view, not meant too seriously and delivered with a flap of the wrist or a raised eyebrow, justifies au contraire.

-Guest Wordsmith Philip Gooden (pgoodenATgooden.ndo.co.uk)

"The A-list cannot be loved by all the people all of the time. Au contraire, the bigger and better and more gorgeous one gets, the more likely one is to inspire antipathy."
Polly Vernon; Celebrity Etiquette; The Observer (London, UK); Aug 21 2005.


The river does not swell with clear water. -Italian proverb


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