franecdote 1684 : La Salle’s Last Hurrah

The image is a painting by Theodore Gudin depicting the
the entry of La Salle’s expedition into Matagorda Bay in 1684.
The ship on the left is La Belle, in the middle is Le Joly,
and
L’Aimable is to the right.

It’s time for the next “franecdote” — an interesting fact or story from “THAT year in French history“ where “THAT year” is this year minus the number of Facebook fans je parle américain has every Thursday.

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Today’s franecdote is from July 18,
when je parle américain had 329 Facebook fans.
So …

The year 2013 — 329 fans = 1684, and the franecdote is …

<drumroll>

The Final Expedition of
René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle Continue reading franecdote 1684 : La Salle’s Last Hurrah

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Mon époux

Last Friday, I celebrated my third wedding anniversary! It’s hard to believe that it’s already been three years since that magic day. We shared a wonderful evening of fun and food to celebrate, but this article isn’t about that at all. Those of you who know me well won’t be too surprised to learn that my anniversary celebration eventually turned to a discussion of linguistics and etymology. “Etymology on your anniversary?!” Yes, yes … I know. I’m a geek. I admit it. That’s the real testament to our marriage, after all: that my incessant droning about language and history hasn’t resulted in divorce proceedings!

So how did this subject even come up? Well, it has to do with the French word for husband. (See? There is a connection!) The French have a couple of ways to say the word — mari or époux — and it’s the latter that sparked the idea for this article. You see, while the English word “husband” doesn’t come from French (like “wife,” it’s from Old English), the general term for the person you’re married to (your “spouse“) does.  Continue reading Mon époux

franecdote 1685 : I Won’t Tolerate It

Detail from a 1701 portrait of Louis XIV by Hyacinthe Rigaud

It’s time for yet another “franecdote” — an interesting fact or story from “THAT year in French history“ where “THAT year” is this year minus the number of Facebook fans je parle américain has every Thursday.

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Today’s franecdote is from July 11, when je parle américain had 328 Facebook fans. So …

The year 2013 — 328 fans = 1685, and the franecdote is …

<drumroll>

The Edict of Fontainebleau Continue reading franecdote 1685 : I Won’t Tolerate It

franecdote 1688 : King William’s War

You might remember from this recent post that a “franecdote” is an interesting fact or story from “THAT year in French history” where “THAT year” is this year minus the number of Facebook fans je parle américain has every Thursday night.

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You might also recall that I’m in the process of publishing these little tidbits on the blog itself after having published them already on Facebook. Today’s franecdote is from last Thursday, in fact, when je parle américain had 325 Facebook fans. So …

The year 2013 — 325 fans = 1688, and the franecdote is …

<drumroll>

King William’s War

<cue dramatic music> Continue reading franecdote 1688 : King William’s War

franecdote 1694 : In So Many Words

Used under Creative Commons
Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic License

I started a new Thursday night tradition a few weeks ago called “THAT year in French history” where I publish a “franecdote” (an interesting fact or story from French history) on the blog’s Facebook fanpage. The key is that “THAT year” depends on the number of Facebook fans je parle américain has every Thursday night. Without going into a long explanation since you can read more about it here …

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… the first franecdote was published on June 20, 2013, when je parle américain had 319 Facebook fans, so it was for the year

1694

And now, here it is for the first time on the blog itself … Continue reading franecdote 1694 : In So Many Words

We Are the World

Lire en français.

Yesterday morning, I woke up early, got myself ready, and went off to my last French class ever. It was the culmination of five semesters of studying French — as Moses once put it — as “a stranger in a strange land.” It’s been a long road, sometimes frustrating, sometimes nerve-wracking, but always fulfilling. I’ve learned a lot these last few years. I often joke that even after four years of French in high school, I could barely string together enough French to order dinner when I first met Michel. Now, I’m now somewhere between a C1 and C2 level of competence, depending on which skills you’re measuring. Grammar is definitely my strong point: on the TCF I took in February, I got a perfect score! I may not be able to speak French that well off the cuff, and I might still have a very noticeable (but hopefully still charming) American accent, but if you put a French sentence in front of me, I can diagram that thing like a pro! That’s probably a good thing, because my next academic endeavor looks like a foray into the world of linguistics at Université Paris Descartes (Paris V).

But I’ve gained a lot more than a second language. Continue reading We Are the World

French Kiss: Don’t Forget Your Galoshes

From the 1995 Lawrence Kasdan romantic comedy French Kiss
starring Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline

This might come as a surprise to you but, before today, the French didn’t even have an officially-sanctioned word for one of their most famous romantic exports:

French Kissing

That’s right. The very practice that returning World War I soldiers nicknamed after the French has only just now gotten its own entry in the French dictionary. This racy new vocabulary word?

galocher

Continue reading French Kiss: Don’t Forget Your Galoshes

The “All Good” Law

Languages are always evolving, and the speed at which they’re doing it has only increased in recent years. Broader international travel, continued waves of migration, and the dawn of the Information Age have made cultural exchange, including the importation of words from other languages, quicker and easier than ever before. There’s a clear trade imbalance, though, and it’s English that’s the chief exporter these days. And the French are very sensitive to that. Continue reading The “All Good” Law

Le petit chapeau

Disclaimer: I’m not a linguist (yet) so, if you are one, please be gentle in your reactions if I’ve gotten something completely wrong …

As English speakers, one of the first things we notice about French is the widespread use of diacritical marks — or “accents” to be less linguistic about it. For students of the language (native speakers and non-native speakers alike) they can sometimes be the bane our existence. Accents obviously aren’t necessary — we don’t really use them in English, after all* — but they serve important functions in the languages that do use them. Sometimes, they denote a change in the pronunciation of the underlying letter. In French, for example, ça and ca don’t sound the same. Sometimes, though, accents don’t change the pronunciation at all; instead, they serve an orthographic (spelling) function to distinguish homophones. For example, la and là sound exactly the same in French but have entirely different meanings. Even though modern French is full of accents (the accent aigu, the accent grave, the tréma, etc.), they were introduced relatively late to the language. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find many diacritical marks in a text from the Middle Ages. So what explains their introduction? Well, a comprehensive account of the evolution of French accents is thankfully far too complex to go into here, but I do want to talk about one in particular that has an interesting story and implications for English-speaking students of French:

le petit chapeau … the little hat … the circumflex Continue reading Le petit chapeau

Did we eat the President’s galette by mistake?

January 6 is Epiphany, the Christian holiday that commemorates the visitation of the Magi (the Three Wise Men, or the Three Kings) to the Baby Jesus. I’m not going to get into a long discourse on the theological meaning of the festival, but I do want to share with you its culinary meaning …

Continue reading Did we eat the President’s galette by mistake?