August 22, 2004
U Too Can Make A Difference

On Friday, Hugh Hewitt wrote of John Kerry:

Americans don't tolerate posers, especially posers who keep changing the pose.

Of course, if there's one thing Americans find more intolerable than a poser, it's a poseur.

It's odd that the French spelling is so common even in English, despite the fact that we have a perfectly adequate English form. So much more common that the American Heritage Dictionary (4th edition) actually defines 'poser' as meaning 'poseur', with no further explanation. Apparently there's something peculiarly French about the whole idea of being "One who affects a particular attribute, attitude, or identity to impress or influence others", which is what we find when we go to 'poseur'.

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*Most French words and phrases commonly used in English -- camembert, ratatouille, bouillabaise (I had to look up the spelling of that one), je ne sais quoi, ménage à trois -- have no vernacular equivalent. Those that do are usually shorter and more convenient and often provide usefully differentiated shades of meaning, e.g. café vs. coffeeshop or resumé vs. curriculum vitae. In the last example the French form is actually less pretentious. Of course, the non-French form is polysyllabic Latin rather than simple Anglo-Saxon. I don't suppose Angles and Saxons put much stock in paper credentials when hiring.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at August 22, 2004 11:43 AM

Actually, many of these words and phrases do have vernacular equivalents; it is just that the snob appeal of the French is so much greater that we do not ordinarily use them:

menu -- bill of fare
bouillabaise -- fish soup
ratatouille -- mulch

Posted by: John "Akatsukami" Braue on August 22, 2004 01:18 PM

Well, not every fish soup is a bouillabaise (there are quite a lot which aren't, for instance Hungarian fish soup or the Vietnamese variant). And, in my book at least, ratatouille is a vegetable stew which really has not much in common with mulch.

Posted by: Johannes Kappner on August 23, 2004 07:44 AM

I think Braue's point was that the only civilized use for ratatouille is as mulch, a sentiment with which I could not agree more. Also, far more Anglo-Americans would understand the word "menu" than would understand what's meant by a "bill of fare".

And bouillabaisse will always be "chowder" in my book.

Posted by: Robert Speirs on August 23, 2004 03:40 PM

I rather like ratatoulle, even though I've not got the slightest idea how to pronounce it.

Posted by: Slartibartfast on August 23, 2004 11:11 PM

Slarty (love the Adams handle, by the way):



At least, that's how my parents always said it, and they speak French.

Posted by: Kieran Lyons on August 24, 2004 12:57 AM

But it is Irish accented French (Dublin and Cork variants, for any connaisseurs of pronunciation.)

Posted by: Kieran Lyons on August 24, 2004 01:01 AM

Is the French for hoser hoseur?

Posted by: Kevin Murphy on August 26, 2004 02:36 PM

Thanks, Kieran. I'd suspected that was the proper pronunciation, but it sounded awfully elitist. But maybe that goes with the entire language.

Posted by: Slartibartfast on August 27, 2004 02:45 PM