The best French words ever

So, I’m on my way back home to Denver, sad to leave Paris, but happy to have had this opportunity to spend an extended period of time in my mother’s ancestral homeland. Over the weeks, I stopped noticing the long hike up the hill to work. I don’t know if my judo improved, but I definitely got a deeper appreciation for how much strength doesn’t have to matter in judo if your technique is really good—a result of marathon ne waza sessions with the beautiful Françoise, leading to me being arm-barred, say, every 7 minutes or so. I sampled enough different cheeses to be able to follow the “eat what you like” advice with some confidence that I’ve tried enough cheeses to actually know what I do (and don’t) like, and have read enough about the subject that I can explain what I’m looking for to a cheesemonger (love that word). I wrote 600 lines of code or so, and learned a lot about the structure of French noun phrases.

I’m sure that Zipf’s Law will be taking its wrath out on me right up until the plane takes off from Charles de Gaulle. In the meantime, I’ll wrap up this portion of my life with some of my favorite words from among the hundreds that I’ve come across:

  • haussmanniser: to Haussmannize. From a magazine article about the Marais section of Paris. Haussmann-style architecture is what you’re thinking of when you think of the typical look of Paris. The question posed in the article was, where could immigrants live in an otherwise haussmannisé (Haussmannized) city?
  • soupçonner: to suspect. From a newspaper article about a guy’s arrest. Soupçon can have the same sense in French as it does in English, but I’ve only heard this wonderful verb; the associated noun is un soupçon, a suspicion.
  • hebdomadaire: this amazing adjective means “weekly.”
  • bouquiniste: I love words with an extremely specific meaning—this is a used bookseller on the banks of the Seine. I particularly like the fact that the word entered the dictionary in 1789—the country was being torn apart by one of the most amazing revolutions in European history, and the Académie Française was taking the time to put words about used books and the people who love them in the dictionary.

…and with that, I’m off to the airport. A bientôt!

4 thoughts on “The best French words ever”

  1. Once upon a time… (i.e. back when I was in junior/senior HS) there was a weekly French TV Guide called “Télé Hebdo” (or something similar). It sounds like that’s no longer around or you wouldn’t have been so surprised about “hebdomadaire”.

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  2. Once upon a time… (i.e. back when I was in junior/senior HS) there was a weekly French TV Guide called “Télé Hebdo” (or something similar). It sounds like that’s no longer around or you wouldn’t have been so surprised about “hebdomadaire”.

    I hadn’t known “bouquiniste” (I assume the above is a typo). I love it’s history.

    What were you doing with 600 lines of code;-)

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  3. If only I’d had good enough reception to need a French TV guide–although, frankly, TV5 is great on the web. They have truly amazing stuff for language learners.

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