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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Valentine’s Day – When Cupid’s bow is fired…

Valentine's Day - When Cupid’s bow is fired… As far back as the early fourth century B.C., the Romans had celebrated an annual rite of passage for young men in honor of the god Lupercus. The names of willing young women were placed in a box and drawn at random by the young men. From this lottery each man was matched with a woman companion to share in mutual entertainment and pleasure (often sexual). In a year’s time a new lottery was drawn with new partners.  Needless to say the early Catholic Church fathers were determined to put an end to this practice. They decided to find a « lover’s » saint who could usurp the popularity of Lupercus. They found Valentine. In Rome in A.D. 270, Valentine, Bishop of Interamna, had performed the sacrament of matrimony for lovers in secret. Valentine was violating a law issued by the mad emperor Claudius II who believed that married men made poor soldiers because they were loath to leave their families for battle. Since the Empire needed s…
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Ma langue au chat, Tortures et délices d’un anglophone à Paris

Mon petit accent récit extrait de Ma langue au chat, Tortures et délices d'un anglophone à Paris (Seuil/ Points Editions, October 2017) Vous avez un petit accent, me dit-on. Tout le monde a un accent. Mais pas forcément un petit accent. D’ailleurs, s’il était si petit que ça on ne dirait rien du tout. On ne fait pas remarquer à une dame qui se promène avec un chihuahua Vous avez un petit chien, madame. On dit plutôt : Qu’est-ce qu’il est mignon, votre chien. Ou bien : Il me fait les gros yeux, celui-là. Quelque chose comme ça. C’est que le chihuahua a la taille conforme, alors que mon accent est hors norme, il n’a pas grand-chose de mignon, je ne sais pas s’il a des yeux, mais il est assez dur de la feuille. C’est une espèce de créature, de corps étranger enfoui en moi. Normalement, mon accent devrait rapetisser avec le temps à force d’imiter les sonorités françaises, se camoufler comme un phasme contre une branche, complètement disparaître. Mais c’est l’i…
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Why is it called? Part 1: French Pastries and desserts

Why is it called … Part 1: French PASTRIES and DESSERTS Have you ever asked yourself why something is called by a particular name? Why are croissants, pain aux raisins and pains au chocolat called viennoiseries for example? How do things get named? Here is a short list of French pastries and desserts and how they got their names. We invite readers to add their own favorite pastries and desserts to the comments. Viennoiserie A pastry was created in Vienna in celebration of the end of the Turkish siege of 1683 in the shape of the Turkish crescent (croissant). An Austrian army officer named August Zang and his associate Ernest Schwarzer, a nobleman from Vienna opened the Boulangerie Viennoise at 92 rue de Richelieu in Paris in 1838. They were the first to make the pastries which were to become known as viennoiserie. Ironically even though the French name viennoiserie makes a reference to Vienna which is the origin of the pastries, in English these baked delights are called D…
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