Saturday, March 16, 2013

Vocabulaire: des bas, le deuil, en berne

I love it when the search for elucidation on one word leads to another discovery, and so on.

des bas: stockings
  • Chaussée avec un soin qui dénotait des habitudes d’élégance, elle portait des bas de soie gris qui complétaient la teinte de deuil répandue dans ce costume de convention.
le deuil: grief, bereavement
  • Vingt enfants ont été tués dans une école primaire américaine.  Donc le président Obama a ordonné la mise en berne des drapeaux en signe de deuil.
en berne: [lit] at half-mast; [fig] falting, staggering
  • On ne comptait plus les minutes de silence dans les institutions officielles, notamment en prélude à des rencontres politiques ou les drapeaux mis en berne.
  • Il faut aussi retrouver l'intimité qu'une libido en berne a laissé s'éteindre.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Gamahouche or gamahuche.   I came across this archaic term in, unlikely though it is, a modern urban murder mystery by highly lauded novelist Lawrence Block (in Burglars Can't Be Choosers, 1977).

It seems to be a Victorian term for cunniligus:
I was sliding the final drawer back in the desk when Ray asked, "What the hell does gamahouche mean?"
I made him spell it, then took the book away from him and looked for myself.  "I think it means to go down on a girl," I said.
I find it on the web at this Fark discussion, the Urban Dictionary of all things (it's usually a source for invented silliness or poorly written insults), the Wiktionary, and this rather steamy Victorian novel.

I shall endeavor to insert this word (heh heh) into modern parlance as often as mores allow.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Parlez-vous martien?

Pompidou Center offers a language course in Martian:

If you’ve already mastered the French language, and you’re looking for a new challenge, the Pompidou Centre in Paris might have what you need. Along with over 100 other activities, the cultural hub is offering courses in Martian.

Whether it's for those who want to add an extra language skill to their CV or for anyone wanting to be fully prepared for an invasion from the Red Planet, a new course at the French capital's world-famous Pompidou Centre could be for you.

As part of its Nouveau Festival, the centre otherwise known as Beaubourg is offering one particularly special course at the moment – in Martian.

The festival programme features performances, lectures, films, exhibitions, and more, all centred around the theme of invented languages in contemporary art, cinema and literature.

“Visitors can write in Martian, create customized books, and discover some 3,000 spoken and written languages,” president of the Pompidou Centre, Alain Seban, told France TV.

Top of the list of exhibits is one about the eccentric, turn-of-the-century Swiss medium Hélène Smith, who laid the foundation for much of the written Martian language.

The Nouveau Festival at the Pompidou Centre runs until March 11th.

I wish I had any idea what the language as presented looked and sounded like.

Friday, February 22, 2013

I could eat a horse

From the Inky Fool:

What with the news that almost every snack in Europe is actually my little pony, and the jokes about spaghetti bologneighs, I keep being asked about the origin of the phrase I could eat a horse. Specifically, does it mean:

1) I am so hungry that I could eat something as large as a horse, an elephant or a blue whale.


2) I am so hungry that I would be prepared eat something unusual, like horse, squirrel or cockroach.

So I set off to trace the phrase back. It turned out to be popular all the way through the nineteenth century. But once you get far enough, the phrase changes to I could eat a horse behind the saddle
 So, it's not the largeness but the lack of appeal that is unusual in the phrase.

Also: "thirsty enough to drink barley-water."  Or, to use a modern equivalent, Cherry Pepsi.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Ciao, slave

Who knew?

ciao Look up ciao at
parting salutation, 1929, dialectal variant of Italian schiavo "(your obedient) servant," literally "slave," from Medieval Latin sclavus "slave" (see slave (n.)).

I love the Online Etymology Dictionary!