French Expressions in English: Part 2

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Last week, we looked at 10 French words and expressions that are used in English. Read part 1 here and scroll down for part 2.

  1. excusez-moi
    ‘Excusez-moi!’ he gasped, looking annoyed.

    Excusez-moi means ‘excuse me’.
  2. faux pas
    He had no idea he was making a faux pas by putting his elbows on the table.

    A faux pas is the embarrassing mistake of violating unwritten social rules. The phrase translates to ‘false step’.
  3. haute couture
    She only wore haute couture.

    Haute couture literally means ‘high dressmaking’. The expression describes expensive and exclusive (often custom-fitted) clothing created by leading Parisian fashion houses.
  4. j'accuse
    ‘J’accuse!’ he shouted, pointing at his housemate when he saw that someone had put the empty milk bottle back in the fridge.

    Translating to ‘I accuse,’ this declaration is usually made in public in response to a perceived insult or injustice.
  5. laissez-faire
    He hated studying, so you might not be surprised to hear he took a rather laissez faire attitude to his exams.

    Having a laissez-faire attitude means that you leave things to take their own course, that you don’t interfere with them. The phrase translates to ‘let do’ and is usually used within the context of economics, politics, or philosophy.
  6. répondez s'il-vous-plaît
    ‘Répondez s'il-vous-plaît by June 7th,’ the note read.

    This phrase is usually seen abbreviated as RSVP. Répondez s'il-vous-plaît translates to ‘please reply’.
  7. tête-à-tête
    She couldn’t help overhearing their tête-à-tête.

    Tête-à-tête means ‘head to head’. The expression is used to describe a private and intimate conversation between two people.
  8. Touché
    ‘Touché!’ he laughed when she pointed out an obvious flaw in his theory.

    This expression is used to acknowledge that one person has made a clever point in a discussion at the other person’s expense. It derives from fencing terminology.
  9. tour de force
    The new show is a tour de force.

    A tour de force is something that has been achieved with great skill. It means ‘feat of strength’.
  10. vis-à-vis
    She met with her ex-husband to discuss his responsibilities vis-à-vis their children.

    Vis-à-vis means ‘in relation to’ or ‘with regard to’. It translates to ‘face to face’.

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18 Sep 2018
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