Why is it called? Part 4: Clothing Etymology

Why is it called...? Part 4: Clothing Etymology Have you ever asked yourself why something is called by a particular name? Why are bérets called that? How do clothes get named? There is often a story. Here is a short list of some clothing articles and how they got their names, etymology. We invite readers to add their own favorites or ask about other clothes for which they would like to know the origin in the comments. We'll try to find the answer. Charentaises A charentaise is a general French word for slipper. It refers however to a specific pantoufle usually plaid which came from the area near Angoulême in the Charente region of France about 300 years ago. Hence the Etymology comes from the place. The area had many paper mills. At the time paper was made from rags and leftover felt pieces from the paper making were used to line wooden shoes, making them warmer and softer. A bit later a shoemaker from the town of La Rochefoucaud in the Charente had the idea to add a r…
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Learn French! Bear! Espèces d’ours!

Bear! Espèces d'ours! After being charged by an adult male grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park and shouting "Bear!" John and Lisa (read the Yellowstone press release here and listen to John tell the story here) were amused to return to Paris to find an exhibition entitled The World of Bears or  Espèces d'ours! at the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle. So they trotted right over to see what the museum had to say about bears. It turns out there are 8 species of bears in the world. The grizzly bear John and Lisa encountered, called Ursus arctos horribilis in scientific nomenclature, is a subspecies of the brown bear. It is also less commonly known as the silvertip bear. Scientists generally do not use the name grizzly bear but call it the North American brown bear to distinguish it from the European or Asian brown bear. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark called it "grisley". They were notoriously bad spellers and perhaps meant grizzly in reference to lighter tips …
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The rooster as symbol of France

Cocorico! says the rooster as symbol of France «Cocorico», the French onomatopoeia for the rooster crowing sound (cock-a-doodle-doo), is also used to express national pride but often with a touch of irony. Why? The cock or rooster has played a role in the symbolism and folklore of many nations for thousands of years. For many people, the rooster symbolizes bravery, boldness and virility as he defends the flock. The connection with the rooster as symbol of France in particular may quite simply stem from the similarity of the Latin words for cock (gallus) and inhabitant of Gaul (gallicus), now known as France. This play on words was known in Roman times, when many Gauls used roosters to symbolize their loyalty to Gaul. In the Middle Ages the cock was widely depicted in French churches and is recorded in 14th century German references to France. Chaucer’s foolish and boastful Chantecleer in the Canterbury Tales may have refered to the French national character. During…
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When the French are less French

When the French are less French This is the installment that our French hosts, cousins, counterparts, entourage have dreaded. When the French are less French. (We offer it, however, with tender feelings, hoping that will matter.) For years, FUSAC’s Hints for Newcomers-Hindsights for Oldtimers column has explored Anglo-French cultural and linguistic differences, the behavior and words that separate Parisians from Peorians, Niçois from New Yorkers, Cabourgais from Clevelanders. But while some of those differences are so profoundly embedded in millennia of national identity as to seem eternally immutable, others have begun melting away. Blame globalization. Blame the ubiquitousness of U.S. TV series. Blame students sent on exchange programs and executives sent on voyages d’affairs. Blame the “cool” appeal of Anglo jargon or the difficulty of fitting French verbosity into 140 characters. Whatever the reason, here is a (merely) four-category list of evidence that the gaping gulf is…
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Au Gui l’An Neuf ou Bonne et heureuse année à vous

Au Gui l’An Neuf  is another way, a bit old fashioned, to say Bonne et heureuse année à vous. La saison voulant que le gui abonde, on en cueillit dès le Moyen Âge pour l'offrir avec ce souhait : « Au gui l'an neuf », formule qui fut remplacée plus tard par « Bon an, mal an, Dieu soit céans » (soit dans la maison). Au XIXe siècle on disait « Bonne et sainte année, le paradis à la fin de vos jours », expression modernisée au XXe siècle en « Bonne et heureuse année ». Mistletoe grows all over northern France and on six of the seven continents. It’s those balls in the bare trees that you think might be nests at first glance, but in fact it is vegetal parasite which rarely kills the host trees and thus is not a pest. Ecologically it is an important plant as it provides food and shelter for many species. A study in Australia mentioned in the NY Times compared forest parcels with mistletoe to parcels from which mistletoe had been removed. The study suggests that mistletoe is…
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Why is it called? Part 3: Foods

Why is it called? Part 3: Foods Have you ever asked yourself why something is called by a particular name? Why are certain mushrooms called champignons de Paris? How do foods get named? There is often a story. Here is a short list of someFrench foods or dishes that are well-known in the Paris area and how they got their names. We invite readers to add their own favorites or ask about other foods for which they would like to know the origin in the comments. Champignons de Paris The first mushrooms in France were grown in 1670 by Jean de La Quintinie, gardener to Louis XIV. (You may still visit the King's garden in Versailles, it's called the Potager du Roi and it is a fascinating history of gardening and early techniques.) Under Napoleon I, mushrooms were grown in Paris in areas protected from sunlight, notably in the catacombs. Later in the XIXth century the majority of former quarries and grottos under Paris, which had the perfect constant temperature of 17°C were used to c…
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A Bon Speak Easy is a good Speak Easy

A Bon Speak Easy Why make a bon Speak Easy? One of the most used words in French must be bon. It is used is wish everyone a good day, week, weekend, trip, courage, luck and more. It also has a negative meaning at times. This puzzle includes as many bon phrases as we could find while not repeating the ones we all know from the get go such as bonjour, bon anniversaire, bonbon. I once heard a server in a restaurant wish someone a bon début de fin de soirée. And just yesterday was reminded of another good "bon" phrase when an exasperated mother said "bon sang!" to her kids. Post your translation of bon sang in the comments below this article. The best translation will win a copy of Volume 3 (from which this puzzle is extracted) of the Speak Easy Puzzles book (contest ends 31/12/2021). Bon Speak Easy! This puzzle is included in the new Speak Easy book. Volume 3 is now available with fifty new puzzles to challenge your French and English. Copies may be purchased at the FUSAC …
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Why is it called? Part 2: French place names

Why is it called… Part 2: French place names or toponyms Have you ever asked yourself why something is called by a particular name? Place names are also called toponyms. We've learned Paris was named for the Celtic tribe the Parisii who lived in the area (why the Parisii were called that is still up for discussion), that the Seine was named for the nymph Séquana. Here are some other topoynms from the Paris area. Feel free to add your town in the comments. Versailles: The most likely origin of the name Versailles, first mentioned in 1038 as land belonging to a person named Hughes, comes from the Latin word versare which means to turn over (verser, reverser in French) and probably referred to Hughes’s agricultural efforts of clearing and preparing his land for planting. “Un versailles” or “versail” in old French refers to cleared land. Stains: The name of the town of Stains, a town north of Paris, rings strangely in anglophone ears because we hear a noun that means "a mar…
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Gigantic numbers – just try to count that high!

1000 billion or one trillion? It's the same thing, but it depends who you ask. In any case they are gigantic numbers. While reading an article recently in the French press where the budgets are flying through the roof again I saw the figure 1000 milliard and wondered why the journalist used that method for writing the figure, why not use trillion. In any case they are gigantic numbers. Well come to find out the French, the British (who finally agree on something with the French) and most of the rest of the world have different words than the U.S. (nothing new here, especially when it comes to measurement) for expressing these giant numbers. To try to understand the terms here is a list of them. As you will note the system for naming numbers used in the U.S. is not as logical as that used in other countries (like Great Britain, France, and Germany). In these countries, a billion - bi meaning two and -llion referring to million - logically has twice as many zeros as a million, …
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French Acronyms

French Acronyms are an invasive species! But an integral part of the French language.

Can you decipher this text full of usual French Acronyms?

Marie-France, a French lady, citizen of the RF, lives in IdF. She commutes daily via the RER, STIF and the RATP to the center of Paris where she runs a PME SARL. She learned her business acumen at INSEAD. She deals daily with TVA, PVs, CFE, CVAE, the CNIL, the RGPD, but luckily she doesn’t miss deadlines and thus does not receive many LRAR.

When she goes on vacation to PACA, her favorite region, she takes the SNCF, a TGV or TER. She dreams of visiting the TAAF, as well as the DROM-COM to walk the famous GR on Ile de la Réunion. To get there she’ll fly from one of the ADP, probably CDG. She plays the FDJ lottery and the PMU once in a while hoping to win big to finance her trip. She also has a PEL and a PEA to save money. She shops at the FNAC or the BHV where she pays with her CB.

M…

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