Archive for the Category: French

Embracing the other

People who enjoy learning languages, travelling, learning about different cultures and/or meeting people from different countries tend to be more open to difference, and more tolerant. At least that is my experience. While other people might be more inclined to fear the different and the foreign. In UK schools the most widely-taught languages are French, […]

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Stalls, stinkards and parterres

In theatres in the UK the seats at ground level in front of the stage are usually known as stalls or orchestra stalls. If there are balconies above that level, the first balcony might be known as the dress circle, grand circle or balcony, the second as the upper circle, grand circle, first circle or […]

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Matignon and other metonyms

Last night I discovered that the French equivalent of “Number 10”, which in the UK refers to the British Prime Minister, is Matignon or L’Hôtel de Matignon, the official residence of the French Prime Minister. Number 10 is shorthand for Number 10 Downing Street, is the official residence and office of the British Prime Minister, […]

Also posted in English, Language, Words and phrases 9 Comments

Sorry, we’re out of smiles

Translation: – A baguette please. – With this? – ? – With a plant please – With this? – With a surfboard please – With this? – With a smile please – Sorry. I don’t have any more of them. The phrase avec ceci ? literally means “with this?”, but I suspect in this context […]

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La vie de baguette

The best-known type of French bread is the baguette, which was possibly introduced to France in the early 19th century by August Zang from Austria, though that’s another story. Baguettes only stay fresh for a day, so what do you do with them once they start to go hard? Here are a few possibilities: Here’s […]

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Multilingual musicians

A Sardinian friend of mine, Elena Piras, knows six languages (Sardinian, Italian, English, Scottish Gaelic, French and Spanish) and sings in most of them, plus a few others, including Scots, Bulgarian and Georgian. Here’s a recording of a performance from earlier this year in which she sings in Sardinian, Scots, English, Scottish Gaelic and Bulgarian. […]

Also posted in Bulgarian, English, Georgian, Italian, Language, Music, Pronunciation, Sardinian, Scots, Scottish Gaelic, Songs, Spanish 2 Comments

Polyglot Conference, New York

This weekend I am in New York for the 2015 Polyglot Conference. I arrived yesterday afternoon after an uneventful flight from Manchester. It took a couple of hours to get out of the airport, and another hour or so to Manhattan. Last night I met up with some other polyglots near the Statan Island ferry […]

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Hi. Keefak? Ça va?

What language(s) do they speak in Beirut? According to an interesting programme and article I came across today, many people in Beirut speak Arabic, French and English, and frequently switch between them, often using two of them, or all three in the same sentence. While some might see this kind codeswitching as a sign that […]

Also posted in Arabic, English, Language, Welsh 2 Comments


When you’re in a restaurant or café, how do you get the attention of a waiter/waitress? This cartoon shows how it can be difficult in France. The customer in the cartoon first says “Please”, then “Sir/Mr”, then “Waiter”, then ‘Can I order?’, then a hour later the waiter finally speaks to him and says, “Sir, […]

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Awaken the Appetite

A ragout is a highly seasoned meat and vegetable stew, and comes from the French ragoût, which appears to be a general word for stew. Ragoût comes from the Middle French ragoûter (to awaken the appetite), which comes from the Old French re- (back), à (to) and goût (taste), from the Latin gustum (taste), from […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, Language, Latin, Proto-Indo-European, Words and phrases 1 Comment
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