Say Chic: A Collection of French Words We Can't Live Without

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9781416561842: Say Chic: A Collection of French Words We Can't Live Without

SAY CHIC...C'est magnifique!

Ever wonder why some French words have become so common in English as to be clichés? Or why your witty repartee wouldn't be quite so witty without them?

In Say Chic, Françoise Blanchard and Jeremy Leven collect more than seventy familiar French words and phrases that have become a permanent part of the American vocabulary. In their clever, often amusing style, the authors explain the origin of each word, its meaning, and how it came to be adopted into English. Uniting the sensibilities of an American author and a French author, these surprisingly entertaining stories combine world history, pop culture, etymology, and pithy observations about Americans and the French, with no small amount of panache.

Featuring delightful illustrations, Say Chic will find its raison d'être on the bookshelf of anyone who has ever longed to be an American in Paris and hankers for a bit more of that irresistible je ne sais quoi in America.

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About the Author:

Fraçoise Blanchard is a well-traveled French woman who spent several years in the United States, where she met coauthor Jeremy Leven. After three years of collaboration, primarily on film projects, she returned home to Paris to write. She now lives in Seoul, Korea, with husband, Jung-Soon Choi.

Jeremy Levin veered from a career in the field of neuro-psychiatry to become a novelist, a screenwriter (Creator, Playing forKeeps, The Legend of Bagger Vance, Crazy as Hell, Alex & Emma, The Notebook), and a director (Don Juan DeMarco, which he also wrote). He divides his time between Paris, Connecticut, and New York City.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chauffeur

[ show fur / show fur ]

From the French verb chauffer ("to heat"), chauffeur literally translates as "stoker," referring to Françoise Blanchard and Jeremy Leven a person responsible for maintaining a fire or boiler. Back in the 1800s, a chauffeur was also a kind of robber who would burn the feet of his victims to extort money. Fortunately, the contemporary chauffeur's responsibilities are limited to operating a vehicle. While Englishspeakers apply the term specifically to one who is paid to drive a client around in a private car, the much broader French meaning includes any person behind the wheel of a vehicle.

While the French are certainly not the worst drivers in the world, they do have their fair share of reckless drivers and road hogs, called chauffards, an insulting term that depicts them as substantially less competent drivers than regular chauffeurs. When called this to their faces, the are known to become overheated.

Copyright © 2004 by Les Editions Diateino

Illustrations copyright © 2007 by Paulina Reyes

Gauche /

gaucherie

[ goÝsh / goÝsh uh ree ]

The origin of gauche possibly lies in the verb gauchir ("to bend," "to deform," or "to distort"), which comes from the Old French guenchir ("to make diversions"). It was long believed that left-handers, called gauchers in French, suffered from an unfortunate abnormality. The fact that gauche has been used to describe a socially clumsy action, conduct, or remark lacking tact and grace certainly didn't help their cause.

The word arrived into English during the mid-nineteenth century with its French meaning, and has since been employed as a synonym for "unpolished," when talking about a style or technique. From gauche naturally derived gaucherie, first recorded in French in the eighteenth century. The term, referring to awkward behavior or a blunder that betrays one's maladroitness, also included the sense of timidity.

We will leave it to the reader to explore which nationalities, when visiting Paris, for example, are seen by the good citizens of France to behave in a manner consistently gauche, being insufferably loud and poorly mannered, a deficiency attributed almost entirely to their tragic misfortune of not being French.

Copyright © 2004 by Les Editions Diateino

Illustrations copyright © 2007 by Paulina Reyes

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