Make Yourself Comfortable

One of the “French English” words that I love most is “comfortable” because … well, like most people, I like being comfortable in a comfortable place. That’s one of the great things about the word — it can describe both someone who’s in a state of physical or mental comfort and the thing or condition that makes them that way. “I’m so comfortable when I’m lying in my comfortable bed!” Like that. Little did I know when I came to France, though, the French equivalent “confortable” doesn’t work quite the same way …

As much as I like being comfortable, I like to know that the people around me are comfortable, too. I’m almost nebby about it … “Is everything alright? Are you okay? Can I get you something? Are you comfortable?” Whether it was on the sofa while watching a movie, in a train on our vacation, or during a quick aside when meeting my family or friends, I was constantly asking my husband Michel if he was comfortable …

Ça va? Tu es confortable?

On the outside, Michel was telling me that everything was fine but, on the inside, he was apparently laughing at me. Continue reading Make Yourself Comfortable

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Got a chimney? It’s French.

A while back, I posted about how much of the English language comes from French. Perhaps surprisingly, more English vocabulary comes from French than from any other language source, even Anglo-Saxon—some 30% in fact. Speaking English words of French origin doesn’t make us French speakers, of course, but stumbling across these cognates can be pretty useful if you’re in a French class … or even trying to decipher a French menu. Being an etymology nerd myself (and inspired by my blogger friend over at Le mot du (bon)jour), I decided to create a new “column” on je parle américain: the French English Word of the Week. Every week or so, I’ll write a short post about an ordinary English word that we inherited from French. Sometimes, the French and English words will have exactly the same meanings. Sometimes, though, they’ll be faux amis (“false friends”), because the words have evolved differently over time. Those can be the most interesting!

So, this week’s French English word? Given the record-breaking cold temps affecting many of my readers, I’ve decided to kick things off with:

chimney

Everybody knows what a chimney is, of course. In its primary sense, chimney means “a vertical structure incorporated into a building and enclosing a flue or flues that carry off smoke; especially : the part of such a structure extending above a roof.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

“Chimney” comes to us from the Anglo-Norman chiminee from the Old French cheminée from Late Latin caminata from Latin caminus from Greek kaminos, meaning “furnace.”

In American English, we use the word almost exclusively for the structures that carry off smoke from our homes. We generally call the industrial versions or the versions on steam locomotives and steamships “smokestacks.” In England, by contrast, such smokestacks are often called chimneys and, in some English dialects, chimney can also mean a “fireplace or hearth,” especially a large one, like those found in old castles.

Continue reading Got a chimney? It’s French.

Previous Post

To tide you over until the next post from je parle américain, allow me to share this humorous article from my blogger friend over at Le mot du (bon)jour. (To read the whole article, click on the link “Reblogged from Le mot du (bon)jour” above.) I recently wrote about how much French is actually in the English we speak, and her post highlights the confusion that can arise from mixing French and English without considering how a French person will interpret it. Now, as a die-hard Clemson Tiger, I have to take issue with the first sentence of her post because, well, if I were at Williams-Brice, it would be to cheer for the other team! Nevertheless, today’s “mot rigolo” (“funny word”) is guaranteed to make you chuckle!

Enjoy!
And come back Sunday for the next post from je parle américain!

Le mot du (bon)jour

If you ever go to a USC (that is University of South Carolina) football game, you will find yourself screaming “Go cocks!”… Very strange at first! We brought my French sister and brother-in-law to a game a couple of years ago, and we could not stop laughing because the other side of the stadium was prompted to scream “Game”, and our side had to scream “Cocks”… this lasted a whole game. So we translated with the alternative meaning of cock=rooster (so right, the other meaning…), and in French, that is: “Allez les bites!” (We wanted to text it to the big board but it did not work… I wish! I would have taken a picture!).

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