Jargon (From old English and old French)
Slang is fun in any language, so I thought I would give you a few of my favorite, clean French terms.
Oh la vache – Wow, OMG
literal translation – Oh the cow.
Un Rosbif – A Brit
Literal translation – a roast beef
Avoir le cafard – Be depressed
Literal translation – to have the cockroach
C’est la fin des haricots – that’s the last straw.
Literal translation – That’s the end of the green beans.
Or these pet names: ma puce, ma poule, ma biche (literally my flea, my chicken, my deer)
K I regularly play scrabble in French, and I even win, sometimes, though never against my Italian friend! There is something incredibly satisfying about beating someone at scrabble in their mother tongue! Not that I have a competitive bone in my body you understand, ahem! K is one of the problem letters in French scrabble. It is rare in French because it was rare in Latin. In Latin, K was only used for words of Greek origin that included the letter kappa. This usage passed into French, so that “c” marks the “k” sound in front of hard vowels and “qu” marks the “k” sound in front of soft vowels. Both these sounds can be found in the French/Corsican word “Calanques” the name for some stunning fjords near Marseille. So K really only appears in foreign words used in French (same problem with W by the way) like wok and ski. Wok is one of my go-to words when I play scrabble here. That’s 16 points and if you land on a triple word score – 48, just from three little letters (but who’s counting, eh?)! I must go and check out a French children’s alphabet book to see what they use to illustrate the letter K.
Lavender use has been recorded for some 2500 years. Some varieties of the plant may have been domesticated in Arabia. The plant was sold by Greek traders around 600 BC to the Hyères Islands off Toulon, S France. Then it spread to France, Italy, and Spain. Almost as soon as you enter Provence, you encounter these addictive fields of lavender. Just breathe and follow your sense of smell! The scent from these fields of an ample mauve coat stretching before your enchanted eyes, very quickly becomes heady. Every area has its own characteristics, its traditions and its lavender festivals all summer long. Lavender is a small wild and aromatic woody shrub, just like thyme and savory, which all belong to the Lamiaceae family. Though it isn’t bothered by wind, neither the Mistral nor the Tramontane (our southern French winds), it is particularly fond of the sun and of poor rocky and chalky terrains. Although there are no less than 50 varieties of lavender these can be divided into two main categories: true lavender and “lavandin”. The former grows above 2,300 feet, and is the only real lavender, described as “fine” -used by the famous Grasse perfume factories of Galimard, Fragonard and Molinard, and recognized for its medicinal properties, it only grows at high altitude, whereas “lavandin”, a tall hybrid plant domesticated by man, grows in abundance in the plains. Thus you see, what the tourists flock to is not the ‘real’ thing, and while I still like taking my visiting friends to soak up the purple, scented fields, my real appreciation is when I am climbing in the mountains above Nice and come across natural clumps of the wild plant, crushing the tiny petals between my fingers, the oily fragrance will perfume my entire hike.
This series on France begins here.