In a previous post, I explained why I love learning new English monosyllables. Today I ran across the English word voile. Wiktionary defines voile as a light, translucent cotton fabric used for making curtains and dresses. This particular word is a nice Zipf’s Law phenomenon both because I’m 53 and I just learnt it today, and because its etymology is French.
In French, voile actually has a number of meanings, depending on whether it’s male or female. None of them are quite the same as the meaning in English:
- le voile: this is “veil,” and now also “headscarf” or “hijab.” You will see this meaning in France quite a bit these days, because of la loi sur le voile intégral. This is the informal name for a law which, among other things, forbids wearing the full-face veil in public. It is quite controversial. (I should note that I see women in full-face veils in Paris routinely, and I have never seen the law enforced.) WordReference.com also gives a meaning related to what sounds like a sort of skin forming on top of a liquid, and the buckling of a wheel. I don’t think I’ve ever run into either of those, but Zipf’s Law being what it is, I’ll probably see them both tomorrow…
- la voile: this is a “sail,” and also “sailing.”
Life being weird, I learnt the English word voile in a post about renovating a house in France–you can check it out here.