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"Oh my god! He's dying! Call 911!"

"911?... What's the number?"

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How do you choose your market-research facility? The question is aimed mainly at non-English-speaking countries.

Is it just a question of ease of access? Is it staff responsiveness, one-way mirror a must-have, easy communication in English?...

What is it you’re really looking for?

Thanks for commenting!

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Some humorous dog Latin graffiti from Pompeii
Potentia vobiscum
May the force be with you.

Estne volumen in toga, an solum tibi libet me videre?
Is that a scroll in your toga, or are you just happy to see me?

Fac ut gaudeam.
Make my day.

Audacter calumniare, semper aliquid haeret
Slander boldly, something always sticks

Labia lege.
Read my lips.

Purgamentum init, exit purgamentum.
Garbage in, garbage out.

Veni, vidi, visa.
I came, I saw, I did some shopping.

Veni Vidi Volo in domum redire
I came, I saw, I want to go home

Vade et caca in pilleum et ipse traheatur super aures tuo
Go shit in a hat and pull it down over your ears

Cane mala, non biscoctus
Bad dog, no biscuit.

Stercus accidit
Shit happens

Si hoc legere scis nimium eruditionis habes
If you can read this, you're too educated

Si fractum non sit, noli id reficere.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Illegitimi non carborundum.
Don't let the bastards grind you down.

Braccae tuae aperiuntur.
Your fly is open.

Morologus es!
You're talking like a moron!

Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam.
I have a catapult. Give me all the money, or I will fling an enormous rock at your head.

Tace atque abi.
Shut up and go away.

Mellita, domi adsum.
Honey, I'm home.

Apudne te vel me?
Your place or mine?

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En train de lire le « Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue latine » d'Alfred Meillet quand je découvre un mot intéressant : mascarpio, -onis. Derivé de mas, mâle, et carpo, je saisis, prends, ou goûte... Cela veut dire, en effet, masturbateur. Aujourd'hui, vous savez pourquoi le mascarpone est aussi riche et crémeux. Qui l'eût pensé ? Qui, maintenant, va l'oublier ?...

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Just reading Alfred Meillet's "Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue latine" and discovered an interesting word: mascarpio, -onis. Derived from mas, for male, and carpo, as in pluck, take, enjoy or even taste. So, yes, it means masturbator, and now you know why mascarpone cheese is so rich and creamy. Who'd have thought? Who'll now forget? ;o)

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An interesting take on language and writing and their massive influence in belief and religion comes from today’s “Foreign word of the day” in wiktionary): ʾhlmn', Middle Persian (±300 BCE to ±800 CE) for “the Evil Spirit”, “usually written upside down”: b2ap3_thumbnail_Text-pal-Ahlmn-ahreman.png A long way from this, linguistically unrelated, but perhaps similar in the act of transferring an idea, perception or notion into a shareable symbol are the claviform marks, as daubed on the Grotte de Niaux walls b2ap3_thumbnail_Claviforms.jpg (there is an interesting blogpost on a similarly related issue here, where I nicked the photos and which I have yet to read fully: http://cavepaintingspinturasrupestres.blogspot.fr/), often considered to represent a pregnant woman (this actually leapt at me when I first saw them).

The intuition is the status of magic, not à la David Copperfield et al., but an attempt to fix the incomprehensible. I find it hard to believe Magdalenian humans not associating the act of copulation with the act/event of childbirth, or the atmosphere preceding the storm with the storm itself, but their actually understanding either event was unlikely to say the least.

So what good does representing it do? Were the claviforms a prehistorical equivalent of boys nicking their bedpost per conquest, an enumeration of the number of childbirth occasions, of generations recalled?... Were they related to the act of childbirth occurring within the grottoes themselves? Although women of that time might have had an easier childbirth than today (and there’s no guarantee whatsoever they did), the groans and/or screams reverberating around a dark chamber would probably have greater impact on impressionable minds than those outdoors. We do not associate animals giving birth with any metaphysical questions on their part, so what/where is the missing link of understanding between this and today’s familiarity with meiosis and so on? How do you write when you have no alphabet?

Clearly, though, by the time we get to ʾhlmn', the act of writing is not just a neutral medium for conveying information but contains, like the unnameable Voldemort, a mystical component too (the fact there’s no reality behind the latter is not the point), where penning a name, challenging and manifesting contempt for it by, flippantly, distorting it, gives a degree of power to the scribe hard to understand in the present day, a sense of wonderful bravery perceived in the one who stands up to the thunder-god, in the one of the book…

Which also helps understand the blind acquiescence of biblical infallibility, which no amount of exposing the incoherent gibberish of Genesis will wash away.

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Sometimes (euphemism) I struggle with action over, or rather instead of, words. I wonder how the super-achievers achieve.

Here's one way: you lie...


... with the legend: "Before and after picture of X. The picture on the right was taken after only 14 days of using some crap I'm gonna try and sell you".

It beggars belief! Just a glance tells you it's the same photo photoshopped. The could at least had the decency to change the dress color or flip the pic!

But they got it out there - done. Very worrying.

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The history of etymology simply buzzes with flies feasting on the corpses of kling-klang “Kognates”, but there’s something about the respective etymologies of English trousers and French trousse/trousser which goes beyond the superficial sounds.

Trousers is said to come via Scottish Gaelic triubhas and/or Irish triús and (later or earlier depending which way you look at it) English trouzes and trouse to trews, drawers and the baggies we so love today. Trousse, on the other hand, originally indicating a bundle, things tied or bound up together, is said to derive from Latin torsus, one of the past participles of torquere, to twist, as is English truss (as in truss up). But, interestingly or tantalizingly enough, the Albanian for trousers, tirq comes from late Latin tubrucus from Gothic *þiobrok , knee-britches, cf. OHG dioh-bruoh, Eng. thigh-breeches.

Twist, too (with Old English meanings including fork and rope), probably goes back to Proto-Germanic *twis-, and PIE root *dwo- (*duwo-) which led to two. Likewise, I remember reading once (but cannot trace it so the following is totally speculative) that three and throng (and perhaps French trop) might have been derived by an amplification of the two number, as reflected in certain languages' counting systems going 1, 2, 2 + 1, 2 + 2, many, and similar. And a rope can be two- or, stronger, three-stranded. Further, with today's throng and trop indicating large numbers, is not far-fetched to imagine that their cognates German Dorf, Gaulish tref and English thorp, all meaning village, indicate a sort of “large number-ness”.

The Celtic and Italic languages began their split some 4500-odd years ago, leaving a huge gap of 2-3000 years during which immense divergence could occur but, as has been shown, it is the most frequently-used words that tend to have the greatest staying power (PIE *duwo > two, *wod-or > water, *lus- > louse, etc.). Twisting, tying and bundling are undoubtedly very old and commonly-used human skills, so there is cause to suspect a certain fidelity of sound through the ages. Now, it may also be true that the similarity in sound could also be coincidental, but the coincidentality is within a legitimate phonetic footprint of possible cognates (unlike, say, pie and π [pi] despite both being associated with circularity, as well as the latter’s Hebrew origin meaning “little mouth”, they share no etymological relationship at all although you try divide one without the other and just hear the shrieks of laughter from the gods).

So perhaps the early Celtic trousers began life by lengths of cloth wrapped (twisted, fastened by cord?...) around the waist and legs?

The Latin torquere also gave, via torques or torquis, the vernacular, torca, leading to old French torke, etc., and hence modern French torche. The double twist here is that of the (twisted) cord soaked in resin wound around a stick to act as firebrand.

Which may also explain (for those who remember the 60s…) why they called them “hot-pants” ;o)

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Most respondents attend focus groups for the intellectual challenge, the parry and thrust of discussion and furthering brands' bottom-lines... Some, very few in fact, come for the money.

Others come for...

Well, look at the photo and judge for yourself :o)


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Heard in a focus group recently:

"OK, so give me the name of some fast-moving consumer goods..."

"Tomato sauce!", "Milk!", "Cereals!" ... "Maserati!"

Couldn't have said it better myself :o)

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Yesterday, I said "serendipity" (partly because I like the word), but I'm never really happy with it. Serendipity and many accidents are often not. Human words and actions can be quite selective, although often subsconscious too. And so, today's post is not serendipitous but because I'm interested in language and have long been interested in proto-language and pre-language communication. At one stage, I wanted to study gorilla communication as precursor to that of amoeba. Well, it never happened, and I became a ballet-dancer instead. Leaving other people to do the work.

In her fascinating TED talk of 2009, Bonnie Bassler discusses bacterial communication in a molecular form using the immunological lock-and-key metaphor. Like vowelless language, it may sound odd, but what else is voice-recognition than the triggering of nerve receptors based on the shape and mass of sound waves hitting the ear drum?

Listen (;o) for yourself!

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One of the beauties of open-source is the massive input and the random lessons, particularly striking after yesterday's post on kids' texting codes. Opening wiktionary to check some IPA details, I came across sxs and thought, what the?... then read, "seal fat". So not what I thought. In IPA, international phonetic alphabet, it does have a soupçon of a vowel: [sxʲs], but not much. I remembered a conversation with VJ, my niece, about spoken words not being possible without vowels and thought hmm... This is from the Nuxálk language of Bella Coola, British Columbia, quote: "known for long strings of obstruents without any intervening vowels, such as xłp̓x̣ʷłtłpłłskʷc̓ IPA(key): [xɬpʼχʷɬtʰɬpʰɬːskʷʰt͡sʼ]", a fascinating discovery for its revealing a normalcy in strangeness. Just because we (of the Indo-European language bent) have difficulty with languages like Nuxálk, Georgian and Xhosa doesn't mean they are actually difficult.

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Anyone with kids is gonna have to need to read internet slang (aka cyberslang, netspeak, or TPA, for translexical phonological abbreviation) sometime, or maybe you'd prefer not to... Either way, here's a short cheat sheet of what could be termed warning indicators, "warning" bc itz abt u…

  • parent over shoulder: comes in various shapes: p.o.s, p.o.s., pos & p^s
  • parent over shoulder might be reading it: posmbri
  • parent looking: pl
  • parent looking at computer: plac
  • parent looking at the computer screen: platcs
  • parent looking over my shoulder: ploms
  • parent over back: p.o.b.
  • parent at side: pas
  • parent behind back: pbb
  • parent behind me: pbm
  • parents are coming home: pach
  • parents are coming home soon: pachs
  • parents are gone: pag
  • parents are watching: p@w, paw & prw
  • parents at home: pah
  • parents can read slang: pcrs (this one you really need to know)
  • parents in room: pir
  • parents in the room text you later: pitrtul
  • parents looking at my screen: plams
  • parents looking over me: plom
  • parents not home, let's get dirty: pnhlgd
  • parents over shoulder change subject: poscs

On the other hand, by the time you’ve worked this lot out, half of them’ll be dab.

Alright, it means "Acronyms should be memorable and easy to pronounce" ^_^

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And what is the difference in negation between "Je ne sais pas" and "Je n'avance pas? The difference is that the latter reflects more accurately the original usage and meaning of "pas", or "step", where a fair translation could be "I haven't moved an inch" in that it reflects a common feature of former French "forclusives" (my translation of Jacques Damourette and Édouard Pichon's term forclusif, eg. words such as "rien" used for "closing" the discordantiel of "ne") such as point, goutte, mie, etc., in indicating a small amount. So it wasn't strictly a double negative. Today, however, the value of negation has completely replaced that of "step", and phrases like "je vois pas", "j'pense pas", although obviously frowned upon by the crusty bumpkins of the Académie Française and similar, are now commonly accepted negative phrases, effectively turning "Je ne sais pas" into what could be called a "pseudo double negative".

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Mesmo blogpost em Português: Vocabulário Popular de Porto Velho já está disponível na Amazon e em outros lugares!

Para resenhas em Português, veja o artigo no Nortão, ou ler o blog de Beto. Não se esqueça de comentar ou deixe um comentário na página da Amazon :o)

Para shopahólicos, tente este link:

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Vocabulario Popular de Porto Velho is now available on Amazon and elsewhere!

For reviews in Portuguese, see the article in O Nortao, or read Beto's blog. Don't forget to comment or leave a review on the Amazon page :o)

For shopaholics, try the link on the left for UK and the one on the right for France:


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Saint Jerome is said to be the patron saint of translators, which is very unfair. He did a shoddy job. If he disagreed with the “holy book”, he rewrote it to suit his personal preferences. “Naughty Saint Jerome, naughty!” He should more rightly be called a propagandist. Anyway, moving onto another scripturalist, the medieval hagiographer monk Caesarius of Heisterbach who came up with the name of Titivillus as the demon who allegedly caused typographical errors in the work of scribes… Ya gotta love that one! One story he tells is of a Cistercian lay brother who was once heard praying: “Lord,” he said, “if Thou free me not from this temptation, I will complain of Thee to Thy mother.”…

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So, we all know what a selfie is don’t we? But what about the spawn of derivatives it’s produced? Take a look, and add your own ;o)

  • belfie: selfie of your butt, usually taken in a mirror or by someone else or thanks to very long arms
  • delfie: a selfie of your dick
  • drelfie: selfie taken when drunk
  • elfie: A selfie of an elf, or a third-party you ask to take a selfie because you're too trashed to do it yourself
  • felfie: either a fake selfie (someone else parading as you, or vice versa), or a selfie with an animal on your farm
  • grelfie: group selfie, not a groupie which is a girl who services popstars (for whatever desperate reason)
  • jelfie: selfie of 2 or more people, a joint selfie
  • lelfie: selfie of your legs
  • melfie: selfie taken by a male
  • pelfie: selfie of your penis
  • selfie: also slang term for masturbation
  • shelfie: picture of yourself in front of your bookcase so everyone can see you can actually read
  • usie: either a selfie of a couple, or a group selfie
  • velfie: another name for selfieo, or selfie done on video
  • welfie: adjective describing one who is rich in personal selfies

Comments and additions welcomed below!

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Some Americanisms and their English counterparts (English, because I'm not sure what the Irish, Scots and Welsh would say) around a rather dated set of telephone terms.

ex-directory       unlisted
reverse charge       collect
engaged       busy
freefone number       toll-free number

NB: this blogpost is intentionally short and sweet, while testing how the platform works...

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Getting back to privilège... In 1684, particularly irritated by the Académie Française's stultifying slowness in producing its long-promised dictionary, Antoine Furetière, member of said academy, published part of his own. He had already obtained his own privilège to publish a dictionary he'd already begun in the 1650s from Louis XIV, so was perfectly within his right. Now the history of lexicography is also the history of genteel plagiary, almost by definition and probably necessarily so, and some of his "plagiarisms" certainly pre-date the Academy's impetuous pennings. But not only did they not thank him for advancing the cause of science and language, the learnèd Academy kicked the bastard out. Such is the bedrock of French linguistic legitimacy. Be this as it may, when a French person thinks of dictionaries (perhaps not that often...), 'tis with a twinkle in the eye for Furetière and a groan on the throne for the greens.

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A short glossary of texting terms and variations.< /p>

  • bexting: texting someone for a booty-call
  • chexting: cheating by text, or texting while in church, or checking a text message
  • dexting: texting while driving, very dangerous
  • drexting: texting while driving, also while drunk or even at the doctor's
  • fexting: texting while fucking
  • flexting: flirting by text, virtual form of safe-sexting
  • gexting: giggle-texting, call it verbal foreplay prior to sexting
  • grexting: texting while grinding but why anyone would bother is beyond me
  • hexting: we've hit oil... hate texting, holy texting (not yet acknowledged by the church as messaging boys with the intention of expanding their holy attributes), hugging via text, hex texting for the purpose of cursing someone, and last, #hexting is when geeks send sex-oriented msgs in hexadecimal
  • jexting: texting multiple conversations at the same time with the same person
  • lyrexting: texting in song lyrics
  • mexting: any texting involving things/people Mexican
  • nexting: either texting someone who's right next to you, or nothing to do with texting but killing a relationship and moving onto the next one
  • pexting: sending text photo of penis, texting while pooping, picture texting
  • prexting: pretending to text
  • sexting: sending and/or exchanging text msgs aimed at arousal
  • shexting: texting while shitting
  • shexturbating: while masturbating
  • slexting: texting while half-asleep
  • spexting: texting about sport or South Park
  • trexting: texting tricks (derogatory term for women as sex objects), or texting msgs involving T Rex
  • twexting: tweeting to people instead of texting
  • vexting: either sending vexacious messages to annoy someone, or venting your anger by text, also used for voice-controlled texting
  • wexting: texting while walking, fairly dangerous
  • whexting: whining by text
  • yexting: texting while yelling, TEXTING IN ALL CAPS
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Today's false friend: privilégié does not mean privileged. Today anyway. It used to oh so many moons ago, but not (really) any more. Used in the mid-middle ages for special cases whereby individuals were exempt from common law (Latin privus = private; and lex = law), for example crusaders given tax relief in exchange for murdering a few people and, later, when Louis XIV gave the Académie Française the privilège to publish a dictionary (they're still working on it, the letter A is nearing completion ;o)

Nowadays, this sort of meaning has dropped off and when a French person uses privilégié, it is when English speakers would say "special", for example une relation privilégiée would be a special relationship, and so on. It's similar, but not quite...

When an English speaker uses "privileged", it tends to reflect a later French meaning of particular favor and is usually used in association with people who, because or their social status, benefit from better conditions such as schooling, access to certain professions, or simply wealth. A privileged upbringing, for example, is essentially one where the person went to the good schools, made the "right" connections, and acquired the attributes of a life more "refined" than the average.

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Today's Regionalism: “Haricotier”. This one comes from the Centre and is used to indicate a person who always tries to avoid paying for things, related to the 19th-C verb harigoter meaning to act in a miserly way (any relation to bean-counting is probably fortuitous ;o), cultivate poor-quality land, or waste time at a thankless task. The word has an interesting history: haricot used to be used to express the idea of a mish-mash, as in haricot de mouton, mutton stew, coming from the old verb harigoter / haligoter, to cut into pieces, or shred. The term fèves d'arigot existed in the 17th C in the sense of beans in/for the stew and, since various types of fève existed, the meaning seems to have shifted to bean itself.

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When mari entered the French language around 1150-odd, it was originally associated with wine-growing in the sense of a vine maritus with (associated with, coupled to) a tree, perhaps as support structure (perhaps, and I'm not sure at all, as a graft?). Possibly under the influence of the Christian concept of tree of life (and this was an age of wildly fantastical "philosophizing") and the vine's "protective" nature, it later adopted its other Latin meaning of conjugal, nuptial… But the word has deeper origins too: the PIE root *mari- meaning young wife, or young woman, from which it forked into the more "primitive" IE languages such as Gaulish, merch (girl), and Lithuanian, martí (ditto), as well as later IE forms such as *mer- or *mor- indicating either a young man or young woman, as in Greek meirax, and Latin maritus or marita, spouse, married man or woman accordingly, and Sanskrit márya, young man or suitor. So a checkered past, but ending up as male.

What about yesterday? This has a similar story. This has deep roots too. One of the earliest reconstructions is PIE *dhgh(y)es- indeed meaning "yesterday", which the Romans adopted as heri and the French as we know as hier. English, however, come via the Germanic and this bunch wasn't really too sure about where to put it. Modern German is gestern and Old English is geostran, but Old Norse was gær, either tomorrow or yesterday; likewise Gothic gistradagis meant tomorrow, so gistra means other, in the early sense of second, here meaning the next or second day from today, either before or after (although I suspect the g- is a past marker as in modern German [machen, to make or do, gemacht, made or done, etc.]).

The essence of this story is simply that of language change, young men or women being of the various possibilities on a nuptial market, and yesterday and tomorrow ditto of other times related to now. One of the fascinating aspects of language history is not the past history in and of itself, although this is too, but awareness that today's speak is precisely creating the history of tomorrow. As to whether anything's "right" or "wrong", that's another question entirely.

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Today's “Animalism”: Where the French say « Mettre la charrue avant les bœufs » (or brider l'âne / écorcher l'anguille par la queue)... the English “Put the cart before the horse”. Why one chose horse rather than ox or vice versa I don’t know. Either way, today, you’d probably hear (but never I'm sure say :o) ass-backwards (why not mule? ;o)

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Je viens de trouver un soi-disant dictionnaire cibi-français. Au dos, je lis : « tout le monde a été, est ou sera cibiste ». A laquelle la réponse évidente : « C’est quoi ‘cibi’ ? »… (pour ceux qui ne savent vraiment pas : CB, ou Citizens Band, très courant dans le siècle dernier, réservé maintenant aux routiers, et encore…). Aujourd’hui, y a-t-il qui que ce soit qui se sert de ce système sensé tisser « sa toile bien plus que le “web” ». Question à ceux qui ont peur des Microsoft/Apple, Facebook, Google, et compagnie : en avez-vous vraiment besoin ?

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Yesterday, we looked at “decade”, today, I want to continue with its next-door neighbor dizaine. Today, a dizaine is an approximate amount, about 10, ten or so, but it wasn’t always the case. Where, counterintuitively, Latin decem and Old French dis or diz, until about the 12th C, meant an indeterminate or small(ish) number, Old French dezen meant 10th, gradually shifting to the whole of the 10 10ths, as in the 10 beads of a rosary, and acquiring the meaning of exactly 10 in the 16th century, and thence to the woollier designation today. English dozen seems to have followed a similar path, meaning exactly 12 when borrowed from France around 1300 and, despite retaining this meaning, can also, according to pronunciation or emphasis, mean about a dozen. So a dozen eggs means 12 eggs in English and in French, while a dozen people means about 12. But une dizaine of anything is about. English does not have a “tenen”, it’s “10 widgits” or it’s not.

This is one of the fascinating quality of words, their what I call “hyperism”, where limited vocabulary or difficulties in communicating result in meaning being extended beyond its current footprint  (hence double negatives not being “wrong”, just emphases, I’ll get back to this another day).

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English speakers are so used to “decade” meaning 10 years that we sometimes misunderstand the French, but so do they… To start, the “deca” indicates a Greek origin, but via low Latin decas, -adis or its synonym (?) decada, -ae, and in modern French means the number 10, about 10, or 10 years (or one of a series of 10 volumes, often in reference to the works of Livy, later to be replaced by tome). The English meaning of “decade”, borrowed from French, came into use around 1590, a couple of hundred years before Revolutionary French decided that theirs: a) competed with décennie, a more transparent term, and b) sounded like bloody English, so they decided it had to mean 10 days (deca, 10; and –de derived from dies, day). But they got it wrong: –de is not derived from dies, it resulted from dropping the final –m of decadem (England 1: France 0, sorry). Later, Le Mob decided that as well as using it for 10 months (which was also knocking around) or, grudgingly, years, they might as well use it for a 10-day week, starting Primidi, thru Duodi, Tridi … to Octidi, Nonidi et Décadi (where -di does derive from dies), the latter being the sunniest time of a decidedly non-35-hour week…

So if your French doctor tells you to keep taking the pills for the next decade, don’t worry. He means 10 days.

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Today’s loan word from French: “Trocar”, an instrument used for keyhole surgery among other things, from trois-quarts (three-quarters) via “troquard”, term first recorded in the Dictionnaire des Arts et des Sciences, 1694, by Thomas Corneille, brother of Pierre wouldn’t you know?... Although the etymology does seem odd, with other sources (Mirriam-Webster) saying trois-carré (three-square, or triangular) which seems to make better sense, but my horse's mouth is Alain Rey's brilliant Dictionnaire historique de la langue française, and I'd rather not pick fights with him. Perhaps Thomas misheard? The word square, now carré, was written quarré round about that time...

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Today's Etymology: Where do you think the word "crabe" comes from?... This was a gift from the Vikings who settled in Normandy, from the Old Norse "krabbi". Quite possibly the same gentlemen who brought it to England some 100-odd years earlier.

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Today's Idiom: While the French say "Avoir le vent en poupe"... the English say, or used to say, "having the wind behind you". Nowadays, you're more like to use the expression being "on a roll".

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Today's Faux Ami: While the French say "Dessert (yaourt, crème…) allégé"... the English say "lo-cal" or "diet dessert". To allege, on the other hand, implies a sense of implication, a supposition of guilt or involvement in something questionable.

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Today's Animalism: While the French say "Qui vole un œuf vole un bœuf"...

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Since the blog will mainly look at the relation of the English and French languages and our historic love/hate affair with each other, let's start by examining words of similar meaning or idea, but expressed in different, yet related, ways.

Today: étranger, versus foreigner...

Étranger is derived from Latin extraneus, meaning "from the outside, exterior" a development of extra, "outside, outside of". The French first used it for other natives of their dear country before turning their bile onto sub- or supra-hexagonists.

Foreigner is derived from Latin, too, but via Old French forain "strange, foreign; out-of-the-way" (which gives French foire foraine, fairground, because they traveled), ultimately from the Latin adverb foris "outside," or "out of doors" related to foris "door,".

It should be remembered that, incidental to the earliest sense of the word, foreigners (particularly British) in France are, by definition, abroad, hence in French "à l'étranger", or "at the foreigners", implying that the étrangers are, in fact, the French.

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Where the most foolish of fools begins his blog on the most foolish of days...

There are, understandably, literally hundreds of stories as of the origin of April's Fools day, which the French rethink not as a day but as a joke to be performed on the day, consisting of attaching a paper fish to a victim’s back and jeering “Poisson d’Avril” (April fish) when they finally discover it. It has a long history… and many a famous philosopher has enjoyed poking fun at their peers... In 1780, French zoologist and natural philosopher Buffon concocted a hoax speech on Aprilichthys fallax in his “Most Learnèd Discourse upon the bla, bla, bla...”. Before him, others had come up with Canularictus aprilis (a certain Roussillon [identity uncertain], in 1564) and, more humorously, as Sarda massiliensis by Marius Maccesari in 1654. Mostly just fun, but note Maccesari's choice of latin name... Sarda usually refers to Sardinia, and, even then, Marseillans had the reputation for exaggerating the size of the fish they caught (equivalent to the English angler whose fish, the one that got away, grew bigger with each telling), but Maccesari was also a minor theologian with an interest in the early church...
Fine, but what does that say about the origin of April Fool’s?

What we often hear is it being related to the French change in Julian calendar of 1564 causing muddled mirth and merriment but this is simply not true. Poisson d’Avril and April Fool’s both existed before this. Closer to home and earlier (ca. 1390s) we have Chaucer whose “Nun's Priest's Tale” mentions Master Fox and Master Chantecleer’s folly as occurring “Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two”, which, given medieval (and before) confusion about with which digit to start counting from (remember the Y2K debate about when the millennium turned: 2000 or 2001? While no-one batted an eyelid about accepting the switch as occurring on 1999-2000, implying the millennium started on year 0, we all start every month on day 1. Case dismissed), could add up to April 1. Or not. Other story details, mainly astronomical, put the date in May. So we’re still no nearer. Except we are, in that a very similar mistake occurred some 1200 years before.

It seems that the original story dates back to a certain Melito of Sardis (the guy responsible for calling the Old Testament by that name, died c. 180). Christians have long used the fish to symbolize their faith and their IQ, and also have a strange fetish about eating it. Now, as well as being a Chiliast believer (despite living in a warm country) Melito was also a "Quartodecimanist", a early Christian believer in the celebrating of Passover on the eve of the 14th day of Nisan, which for some was also the day of Jesus’s crucifixion. And also, on some years too, April 1st. Now, since the period preceding this prohibited a) the eating of rabbit, cloven-hoofed animals such as the yummy rock hyrax (interestingly and very unintuitively a relative of the elephant), zoological impossibilities such as four-legged insects, and aquatic delicacies such as lobster, and b) tattooing yourself or trimming the edge of your beard (women in particular) but, lucky you, did allow you to eat locusts and, we get there, fish. The Good Guys (Roman rather than Asian church), on the other hand, celebrated it one week later, and the ventilator suddenly became very busy. Out of this tiny, dare one say, trivial detail may have grown the seeds of East-West schism. Needless to say, Melito was mocked haughtily in the Third Epistle of Pope Zephyrinus (died 217) to All the Bishops of Sicily, and his name, his folly and his date were thenceforth associated with the fish… (Remember Maccesari’s Sarda and Melito’s origin of Sardis). It should have been forgotten but it’s likely that the tradition begun in Spain during the Moorish years when discovered by Arabic mathematician Al-Jayyani (989-1079), picked up by Maimonides (1138-1204) who, born on Passover Eve, devoted perhaps more time than necessary on phenomena revolving around this date, and revived the “joke” in his famous Guide for the Perplexed.

Why the French concentrate more on the fish and the English more on the day, is a mystery and I’ll take this no further.
As a reminder, the blog will mainly be looking at the interrelatedness of French and English, but I just had to start somewhen and somewhere and today seemed as good a day as any.

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