Tag: French

English words of French origins, and how to pronounce them correctly

English words of French origin and how to pronounce them

On 14 July 1789, the storming of the Bastille prison in the centre of Paris marked the beginning of the French Revolution. It was a major watershed in the history of Europe and is today still celebrated as a public holiday in France. The event gave the country a national motto as well: liberté, égalité, […]

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Funny food: translating Europe’s unusual food names

Funny food: translating Europe’s unusual food names

As well as its (unfair) reputation for being bland and stodgy, British cuisine is well known for its confusingly and often humorously-named dishes. Tourists are most likely to have heard of pub classics like toad-in-the-hole, a dish of sausages baked in batter, and schoolchildren never tire of tittering at ‘spotted dick’, a suet pudding containing […]

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Why is French so prescriptive (and is English)?

Why is French so prescriptive (and is English)?

People in the UK are routinely amused and bemused by French-speakers’ hyper-sensitivity to language matters and by the steps taken by the French state to regulate linguistic behaviour. In the 60s and 70s, under the sway of Gaullism, successive governments targeted above all the use of Anglicisms. More recently, the Socialists have faced a tide […]

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Dutch slagroom means whipped cream in English

13 foreign words that sound rude in English

If you’re learning a foreign language you’ve probably been in this situation before: getting all excited about coming across a seemingly familiar word only to find out that its actual meaning is very different from what you expected. There’s no doubt that false friends – i.e. words or expressions that have similar forms to the […]

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pies and cakes in English idioms

Pies and cakes in English idioms

It is assumed that the word pie came into English via Old French, from Latin pica ‘magpie’, which in turn is related to picus ‘green woodpecker’. Here, the allusion is perhaps to the various combinations of ingredients of a pie being comparable to the objects randomly collected by a magpie. Its sweet equivalent, the cake, on the other […]

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“A kiss can be a comma, a question mark or an exclamation point. That's basic spelling that every woman ought to know.” - Mistinguett  (1875–1956)

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What will be 2015’s most popular language?

Everyone seems to have a favourite language, for one reason or another. However, it is impossible to have hard data on this matter since this preference is very subjective. Bab.la is a sister site to OxfordDictionaries.com, and the bab.la Language World Cup was launched in 2013 to find out which are the favourite languages of […]

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pregnancy test

Pregnancy metaphors from around the world

Pregnant was something of a metaphor when it first started being used in relation to a baby. Its earlier meaning (which is still in use) was ‘full of meaning, highly significant’, and the word pregnant began being used as a synonym for the more self-explanatory term with child. There are plenty of historical synonyms for […]

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