Why is it called? Part 1: Pastries and desserts

Why is it called … Part 1: 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 chocolats 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 dessert 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 pasrties, in English these baked delights are called Danish pastri…
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Faux Amis

BEWARE THOSE FAUX AMIS (WORDS THAT LOOK ALIKE IN TWO LANGUAGES BUT HAVE DIFFERENT MEANINGS, SOMETIMES DANGEROUSLY SO) AND INACCURATE TRANSLATIONS! You’re the Chief Information Officer of the French branch of a sprawling multinational, and you’ve been told to upgrade the entire system. Everything. The Works. There are hundreds of thousands of euros to be spent on software, hardware, related staff training and, in conjunction with the Marketing Department, a glossy communication campaign to let the universe know how ultra-wired you are. With almost puerile excitement you grab the phone, call the most renowned supplier in the world and are transferred to an eager young French sales-rep delighted at the opportunity to practice his English. You explain what you’re after. The young man says he’s thrilled to help but his own system is out today. Could you call back tomorrow, he asks, when he’ll hopefully have access to the documents he needs for his pitch. You call the next day. “The…
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Why do you call it a canicule?

Word etymologies are great fun. Here's a few pertinent ones.


Usually this French word is translated to English as heatwave, but a more picturesque and almost literal translation would be "the dog days of summer". Basically it means that it is very hot, hotter than it usually is. But why this reference both in the French "cani" and English to dogs? What do dogs have to do with heat? It goes back to astronomy. The Dog Star, or Sirius, rises and sets with the sun during the summer. Thus the most sultry time of the year became associated with the Dog Star, called canicula in Latin. The word canicule dates from about 1500, but the Romans and Greeks had already been refering to the dog days and associating them with the star Sirius.

Sirius rises late in the dark, liquid sky; On summer nights, star of stars, Orion's Dog they call it, brightest Of all, but an evil portent, bringing heat And fevers to suffering humanity.

Homer's Illiad Once …
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The novlangue Covid Vocabulary list

We have never had so much new vocabulary come into play in a month. Many of the words can be used in both French and English, but there are a few cases where it is better not to mix them up. Here's a selection of what we have noted. Do you speak the covid? Do you know the French nuances? Here's a novlangue Covid Vocabulary list.

Rona, Coco or Kid Corona – nicknames for the coronavirus. It is important to name things when trying to deal with it. Naming things is a way to domesticate and control a situation. Americans use Quarn as a nickname for pour quarantine and the French Confifi for confinement.

La Covid-19 - Le Corona Virus - Watch out for the difference in genders! The Academie française - guardians of the language have decided that La Covid-19 is feminin because it is an acronym which stems from "maladie" a noun which is feminin. Le corona virus is "masculin" because the noun virus is masculin. Read more directly from the horse's mouth.


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Horse puzzles – horse play

Here are 2 horse puzzles, games based on Horses that we put together for the kids next door to whom we were "teaching" English over the garden wall during confinement. I stood up on a ladder to see over the top and they were in their front court. It was pretty funny to see. They enjoyed having some authentic conversation although they had trouble with my "odd" US accent as opposed to the British one they hear in school. It was a welcome distraction for us all. It was tricky to select a "program" as there are 3 girls ages 10 to 17 to entertain and challenge. They have such different levels of English amongst themselves and of course there is the age difference between them and me in terms of knowledge and pop culture. But I figured out that they like to ride horses. So one lesson was centered on horses and their "homework", sent by paper airplane over the wall, was these two puzzles and this nicely done worksheet which includes word searches and lots of horse vocabulary that…

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This would have been my annual Paris Marathon article. Marathon postponed (we hope--i.e., as opposed totally ash-canned for 2020). My local chocolate-shop is closed. We are allowed to shop for only basic necessities (achats [purchases] de première nécessité). Isn’t chocolate a basic necessity? Hand crafted in Bozeman Montana! But also under coronavirus confinement. We are authorized to go out and run, albeit for only an hour per day. If we had an older, fatter president who had an older, fatter prime minister who had an older, fatter health minister, that number would be zero hours per day. This generation of leaders knows that depriving exercise addicts of their workouts in addition to their general mobility would put them over the edge. We (the media, scholars, doomsdayers, fortunetellers, your grandmother) have for years been predicting that Planet Earth will be brought to its knees by terrorism, natural disaster, trade war, real war. It is being brought to i…
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Acronymal France

"Acronymal France" or French Acronyms are an invasive species! But an integral part of the French language.

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-F and her mate Jean-François are PACSé. He works for a GAFA…

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Political symbolism in France and the USA

Political symbolism in France and the USA explained: Left, right, blue, red, donkey, elephant, Democrats, Republicans ? Why do we use the terms LEFT AND RIGHT to designate political ideas in France or associate the colors blue and red with political parties? First it is interesting to note that in France blue is the color of the more conservative party - the right and red the less conservative or left. In the United States the colors are inversed red being conservative and blue being less so and so the press speaks of blue or red states according to their voters penchant. Also we must remember that a democrat with a small "d" is one who is an advocate of democracy and a republican is one who believes in a republican form of government. In others words most of us are both democrat and republican! Here's a short description and history of some political symbolism in France and the USA. Droite-Gauche: Using left of right to designated an ideology is a usage that dates from the…
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Do you know that…

Do you know that... the unofficial national flowers of France are blue, white and red. They are: the cornflower, daisy and poppy - le bleuet, la marguerite et le coquelicot. French was officialized as the language of France by an addendum to the constitution only in 1992. to French kiss is “rouler une pelle” a French letter or tickler is a “capote anglaise” a French horn is a “cor d’harmonie” a French window is a “porte-fenêtre” French fries are “les frites” French dressing is “vinaigrette” French toast is “pain perdu” the French Riviera is “La côte d’Azur” Voltaire’s tomb is in the Pantheon, but his heart is inside a metal box in the base of the statue by Houdon in the National Library. The box is inscribed with: “His heart is here but his spirit is everywhere.” in French “risqué” and “promiscuité” do not refer to sex. Le France is a cruise ship and La France is the country. joke about why the French only eat one egg is the morning? Because one egg is “un oeuf”. (Very p…
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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. 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 rigid sole to the felt clog liners thus creating th…
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