by Liz Walter
It is an odd irony that the more sophisticated your use of English is, the more likely you are to use French words and phrases. Or, to be more accurate, ones you know to be French – words such as ballet, au pair, abattoir, fiancé, café, and restaurant are so entrenched in English that we don’t really think of them as French at all (even the ones with accents).
French is the first foreign language that most British children learn in school, so perhaps it isn’t surprising that we pepper our own language with it, particularly in some contexts. For example, we often use French words to describe personality, with adjectives such as gauche, blasé, soigné or laissez-faire and nouns such as panache, élan, savoir-faire, sangfroid and joie de vivre. Similarly, we could describe someone as an enfant terrible, a femme fatale, a bon vivant, an ingénue or an éminence grise. Read the rest of this entry ?