Attacking the entrenched

saint denis notre-dame
A photo of Saint Denis, one of the patron saints of Paris, on the south wall of Notre Dame. You might recognize this view: it’s the picture at the top of my blog. Picture source:

Catching up on my favorite French news show by podcast after getting back from Japan, I immediately learnt some new words.  As my show was starting, the police attack on the terrorists in the Saint-Denis apartment was still in progress.

Saint-Denis was the burial place of the French royalty from the 600s to the 1820s.  Pépin le Bref, King of the Franks, was crowned there in 751; Graham Robb, in his book Parisians: An adventure history of Paris, tells the story of how Napoleon saw an operetta about him the night that he (Napoleon, not Pépin le Bref) lost his virginity.  Today Saint-Denis is better known for the role that it played in the Paris attacks of 13/11.

Here’s how the show opened.  My news show, not the operetta.  Zipf’s Law…

Des hommes sont aujourd’hui retranchés dans un appartement en Saint-Denis au nord de Paris. La police antiterroriste a donné l’assaut.

  • se retrancher:  to entrench oneself; to hide away, to take refuge.  (If it’s not reflexive, it means something totally different.)
  • un assaut: assault, attack.
  • prendre d’assaut:  to storm, to take by storm.
  • donner l’assaut (à):  to attack.

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