25 French Food-related Terms in English

Note: The pronunciation of these terms varies according to how familiar the speaker is with French. Usually, getting close is good enough. I’ve included pronunciation for six terms that may be especially tricky for some English speakers.
1. à la carte
Food items that can be ordered individually and not as part of a set meal are ordered à la carte. The French word carte means card or menu. For example, a true à la carte menu would list each item separately, with individual prices: chicken legs, $4; broccoli, $2; rice, $1.50, and so on.
2. à la mode
This French expression means “according to the fashion” and can be applied to clothing, furniture, dances, or anything that goes in and out of style. In US usage, the term is applied as a post-modifier to desserts. It usually means “with ice cream,” as in “pie à la mode.”
3. apéritif
An apéritif is an alcoholic drink, taken before a meal to stimulate the appetite.
4. au jus  
Chiefly US, au jus is used as a post-modifier to indicate that a dish, usually meat, has been prepared or served in a gravy containing its own juices.
5. au gratin
A dish prepared au gratin has been sprinkled with breadcrumbs or grated cheese browned in the oven or under the grill. The French verb gratiner means “to brown.”
6. baguette
A long, thin loaf of French bread.
7. bon appétit
A salutation before eating.
8. café au lait [ka-fay oh lay]
Coffee taken with milk.
9. cordon bleu  
Literally, “blue ribbon,” the expression reflects the sense of “first class.” In culinary usage, “a cordon blue” is “a first-class cook.”
10. crème brûlée
A cream topped with caramelized sugar, served as dessert.
11. cuisine
The ordinary word for kitchen in French, cuisine is also used to describe a manner or style of food preparation.
12. en brochette
A brochette is a skewer. En brochette refers to food cooked, and sometimes served, on brochettes, or skewers, like shish kebab. Food served en brochette is generally grilled. 
13. maître d’hôtel  
Maître is French for master. The maître d’hôtel is the host or manager of the “front” of a formal restaurant, the part that serves the customers. British speakers shorten the phrase to maître, but American speakers refer to this person as the maître d. The responsibilities of a maître d’hôtel generally include supervising the wait staff, taking reservations, and welcoming guests.
14. omelette (US omelet)
A dish traditionally made of beaten eggs fried in a pan and folded over. Sometimes other ingredients are added to the egg mixture.
15. petit four
A small fancy cake, biscuit, or sweet, usually served with coffee after a meal. The literal meaning is “little oven.”
16. plat du jour
Literally, “plate of the day, the plat du jour is a dish prepared in addition to the usual menu, available only on that day.
17. pot-au-feu
The literal meaning is “pot on the fire.” It can refer to a large traditional French cooking pot or to something cooked in one, usually a thick soup of meat and vegetables.
18. prix fixe [pree-feex]
A prix fixe meal typically includes several courses, but, unlike à la carte pricing, prix fixe indicates that all the courses are included under one “fixed price
19. roux  [roo]
A mixture of fat and flour heated together and used in making sauces and soups. In the United States, a spicy roux is a staple of Cajun cooking in New Orleans.
20. sauté  
The French verb sauter means “to jump.” Vegetables that are sautéed are fried in a pan with a little butter over a high heat, while being tossed from time to time.
21. sommelier [so-mel-yay]
A sommelier is a wine waiter or wine steward.
22. soupçon  [soup-sohn]
Soupçon is French for suspicion. In cooking, a soupçon is a very small quantity or slight trace of something, “a pinch.”
23. soupe du jour
Like the plat du jour, the soupe du jour (“soup of the day”) is the advertised specialty on a given day.
24. vinaigrette
A vinaigrette is a dressing of oil and wine vinegar, sometimes with herbs used with salads and cold vegetables
25. pièce de résistance [pee-es duh ray-seez-tahnce]
In general usage, the phrase may refer to the prize item in a collection. For example, “The museum’s pièce de résistance is an exact reproduction of an American eighteenth century carpenter’s tiger maple chest.” In reference to food, the pièce de résistance is the main or most difficult-to-resist part of a meal.
–> Get access to 300+ interactive grammar exercises! Click here to start your free trial!

Source: Vocabulary

Internet Initialisms

Although I’ve adopted a few initialisms such as BTW, LOL, and IMHO in my own informal writing, I’m mostly ignorant of the alphabet soup current on Twitter and other social media sites.
When a reader recently introduced me to the combination DRTL, I realized that this new language represents not just a kind of shorthand, but also a new philosophy of written language. This particular construct, DRTL, seems to me to symbolize the new philosophy:
DRTL = Didn’t Read, Too Long.
Strings of commonly understood letter combinations such as FYI (For your information), TGIF (Thank God it’s Friday), and ASAP (As soon as possible) pre-date the Internet, of course, but they never occurred in the profusion that exists now. Readers who share my lack of currency in Abbreviation-Speak may find the following list useful.
AFAIK: As far as I know
AIUI: As I understand it
BTDT: Been there, Done that
BTW: By the way
F2F: Face to face
FOAF: Friend of a friend
FWIW: For What it’s worth
GAL: Get a life
GIGO: Garbage In, Garbage Out
HTH: Hope that helps
IANAL: I am not a lawyer
ICYMI: In case you missed it
IIRC: If I recall correctly
IMHO: In my humble opinion
IMO: In my opinion
IRL: In real life
ISTM: It seems to me
JK (also J/K) Just kidding
LOL: Laughing out loud
OMG: Oh, My God
OTOH: On the other hand
OTT: Over the top
STW: Search the Web
TIL: Today I learned
TMI Too much information
TTYL: Talk to you later
WYSIWYG: What you see is what you get
Of course this list is a mere scratching of the surface. And I’ve deliberately left out the ones that contain a gratuitous F. Nevertheless, even a short list may help a few codgers navigate Twitter with a little more comprehension. HTH.
–> Get access to 300+ interactive grammar exercises! Click here to start your free trial!

Source: Vocabulary


The lovely word cryptid came to my attention in reference to the ivory-billed woodpecker. One of these birds, long believed to be extinct, was sighted in eastern Arkansas in 2004. As no subsequent sightings have been reported, the survival of the species is still disputed.
Cryptid is of recent coinage, suggested in 1983 by J. E. Wall in a publication of the International Society of Cryptozoology, as a word “to replace sensational and often misleading terms like monster.”
Note: The Google Ngram Viewer shows use of cryptid as early as 1963, but the appearance in the ISC newsletter is most likely the cause of the word’s meteoric rise from 1990 to the present.
Cryptozoology may be a pseudoscience, but the word cryptid is a useful addition to the English vocabulary, joining other English words that derive from Greek kryptos, “hidden”:
crypt (1583)
An underground cell, chamber, or vault; especially, one used as a burial place and typically lying beneath a church.
cryptogram (1827)
A piece of cryptographic writing; anything written in code or cipher.
cryptology (1844)
The science, study, or practice of encrypting and decrypting information.
cryptonym (1862) 
A pseudonym or code name; esp. one given to a spy or to a clandestine operation.
crypsis (1956) Cryptic coloration or behavior that enables an animal to conceal its presence.
Cryptozoology (1968)
The study of unknown, legendary, or extinct animals whose existence or survival to the present day is disputed or unsubstantiated.
Cryptids more sensational than the ivory-billed woodpecker include the following:
Abominable Snowman
Big Foot
Fouke Monster
Kelpie Water horse
Loch Ness monster
Sea serpents
Sewer alligators
For a lengthy list of cryptids, see the Wikipedia article.
–> Get access to 300+ interactive grammar exercises! Click here to start your free trial!

Source: Vocabulary

Discomfort and Discomfiture

A reader asks,
Can you explain the origin of the word discomfiture? This seems to be a recent invention; I was not coming across this word about 10 years ago. However, recently its use has increased. Is it the same as discomfort?
Discomfiture is not as common a word as discomfort, but it has been used continuously in English since Chaucer’s day. Discomfort is a little earlier, dating from about 1350, when it meant “deprivation of happiness.”
The earliest OED citations show discomfiture used with the meaning “defeat in battle.” Meanings that developed from there include “frustration of plans or hopes; utter disappointment; perplexity, confusion.” In time, the meaning weakened to include lesser emotions, such as unease, embarrassment, and similar-sounding discomfort.
Although the words may be considered synonyms, discomfiture implies a stronger sense of unease and confusion than discomfort because it combines the connotation of both defeat and embarrassment. Even when defeat is not implied, discomfiture suggests a sense of agitation that discomfort lacks.
I never was more completely whipped in a criminal case, and I always thought Judge Miller enjoyed my discomfiture more than anyone else.
So terrible was his appearance that Spitz was forced to forego disciplining him; but to cover his own discomfiture he turned upon the inoffensive and wailing Billee and drove him to the confines of the camp.
Tempting as it is, though, to smile at the court’s discomfiture, the bigger issue here is whether the federal judiciary should be so actively engaged in the details of the electoral process. 
Discomfort implies a sense of uneasiness, inconvenience, or mild physical pain.
If you have a comfort zone, you must also have a discomfort zone. 
Why Getting Comfortable With Discomfort Is Crucial To Success
About a dozen new teachers of criminal law at multiple institutions have told me that they are not including rape law in their courses, arguing that it’s not worth the risk of complaints of discomfort by students.
If you experience any discomfort in your eye after doing an activity in which a small particle could have entered your eye, such as hammering or working under a car, don’t ignore it. 
I would save discomfiture to describe the kind of discomfort that includes embarrassment on the part of the person feeling it.
–> Get access to 300+ interactive grammar exercises! Click here to start your free trial!

Source: Vocabulary

Mediation, Arbitration, and Litigation

In general usage, mediate and arbitrate are synonyms. However, as a reader pointed out when I used the words mediator and arbitrated in a sentence illustrating the difference between uninterested and disinterested, the roles of mediator and arbitrator in a legal context are distinct.
Note: Like arbitrator, the noun arbiter also means “one who judges.” Arbiter usually refers to someone who judges matters of taste or etiquette: “Gradually, the arbiters of the New York art world caught on. Superlatives in The New York Times became almost routine.”
The reader, who has served as both mediator and arbitrator, explains the difference this way:
As a mediator, I help to facilitate a resolution of matters in dispute, a resolution…that all parties then agree to. I do not decide the matter, the parties do.
As an arbitrator, I act as a judge – although I consider the parties’ respective proposals for resolution, I decide how the matters will be resolved.
Because litigation is time-consuming and extremely expensive, processes called mediation and arbitration have become popular as alternatives or adjuncts to litigation.
litigation: any lawsuit or other resort to the courts to determine a legal question or matter.
mediation: an attempt to settle a legal dispute with the help of a mediator (neutral third party) who works with the disputants to find points of agreement and reach a fair solution.
arbitration: an informal trial presided over by a person or panel of persons (neutral third parties) who are not judges in the judicial system.
Mediation may or may not result in a satisfactory settlement. With arbitration, the disputing parties (usually) agree in advance to accept the decision of the arbitrator/s.
Sources: FindLaw.com and Law.com
–> Get access to 300+ interactive grammar exercises! Click here to start your free trial!

Source: Vocabulary

10 Ways To Form a Compound Noun

Compound nouns are of three kinds: open, hyphenated, and closed.

As the names imply, “open compounds” are written as separate words, “hyphenated compounds” are written with one or more hyphens, and “closed compounds” are written as a single word.

Many compounds begin as open, progress to hyphenated, and finish as closed. Because of the modern preference to avoid hyphenating words as much as possible, newly created compounds tend to develop closed forms earlier than they might have in the past. Some compounds written as one word in US usage are hyphenated in British usage.

Compound nouns are formed by combining different parts of speech. This list of ten is not exhaustive.

1. noun + noun

2. noun + preposition/adverb
passerby (Br. passer-by)

3. noun + adjective
attorney general
battle royal
poet laureate

4. noun + verb

5. adjective + noun
high school
poor loser

6. adjective + verb

7. preposition/adverb + noun

8. verb + noun
singing lesson
washing machine

9. verb + preposition/adverb

10. word + preposition + word

Most compound nouns form their plurals like any other noun: by adding an s to the end of the word: wheeler-dealers, washing machines, onlookers.

A few, like mother-in-law and hole in one do not place the s at the end, but on the most significant word: mothers-in-law, holes in one.

Some compounds of French origin in which the adjective stands last have more than one acceptable plural (depending upon the dictionary):

attorney generals or attorneys general
court martials or courts martial
film noirs, films noir, or films noirs
runner-ups or runners-up

Because there are no hard and fast rules regarding the writing of compound nouns, stylebooks advise writers to consult a dictionary when in doubt.

–> Get access to 300+ interactive grammar exercises! Click here to start your free trial!

Source: Daily Tips

The Changing Meaning of School

Since Shakespeare’s time at least, children have been portrayed as being reluctant to go to school:
…the whining school-boy with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. —As You Like It, II:vii,148-150.
That’s a sad fate for school, a word that originated in the context of enjoyable leisure time.
Our word school comes from Latin schola, “learned leisure.” Schola was free time during which educated men could sit around and talk about ideas. The talk might lead to lecturing and arguing, so from meaning “free time for talking about ideas,” schola came to mean debate, dispute, lecture, dissertation.
More and more definitions were added. A schola could be “a place where learned disputations are carried on.” Then, the followers of a favorite lecturer or philosopher were called “a schola.”
Note: School in the expression “a school of fish” derives from Middle Dutch schole, “flock of animals.”
In modern English, school has numerous meanings and occurs in several idioms.
School can mean any of the following:
An establishment or institution for the formal education of children or young people.
The building or set of buildings used by a school.
A place, environment, experience, etc., which forms or develops a person’s character or behavior.
A group of people who follow or are influenced by the teaching of a particular person, or who share similar principles, ideas, or methods.
A group of people who share a particular opinion, practice, or custom.
A particular type of doctrine or practice as followed by a group of people.
An institution in which instruction of a particular kind is given.
A department in a college or university.
Here are a few examples of these different uses:
A painting of Mary Stuart by an unknown artist of the School of Clouet hangs at the Hermitage, St. Petersburg.
Spenser earned his degree in the school of hard knocks, so he is ready when a Boston university hires him to recover a rare, stolen manuscript.
You have to understand, he’s definitely old school when it comes to understanding different cultures.
This is a discussion of Marxism-Leninism as a school of thought as opposed to a political practice.
The Colorado School of Mines Board of Trustees announced that Paul C. Johnson is the finalist for president of Colorado School of Mines.
The Missouri School of Journalism at University of Missouri in Columbia is a journalism school which may be the oldest formal journalism school in the world.
–> Get access to 300+ interactive grammar exercises! Click here to start your free trial!

Source: Vocabulary


In response to my post about the use of the word unctuous in the context of cooking, several readers suggested that speakers might be confusing unctuous with sumptuous.
If they are, they must not know the meaning of sumptuous. English-speaking cooks who use unctuous to describe pork roasts are referring to taste, texture, and juiciness. The word sumptuous, although often used to describe a meal, has nothing to do with the taste of food.
The word sumptuous derives from the Latin verb sūmĕre, “to take, consume, spend.” From the verb comes the Latin adjective sumptuosus, “costly, expensive.”
At different periods of history, governments passed what were called “sumptuary laws,” laws that criminalized overspending by certain social classes.
The expression “born to the purple,” meaning, “born into the royal family,” comes from sumptuary laws that restricted the use of an expensive dye called Tyrian purple. In ancient Rome, for example, only the emperor could wear a Tyrian purple cape trimmed in golden thread. Only senators were permitted to decorate their togas with a Tyrian purple stripe.
European sumptuary laws were enacted throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and even found their way to the New World. The Massachusetts Bay Colony passed a sumptuary law to limit the wearing of lace, gold buttons, ruffles, capes, and other expensive items to citizens with a net worth of 200 pounds or more.
A sumptuous meal is an expensive meal. It will have numerous courses made up of a wide variety of dishes and drinks.
Here’s a description of a sumptuous dinner offered at the cost of $99,300 by a caterer to the rich and famous:
The dinner includes ritzy ingredients such as duck eggs and truffles, as well as a dish of Wagyu beef touched with silver leaf that’s served on a bed of dry ice. Each dish in the eight-course meal is combined with a fine wine, such as the $27,680 bottle of La Romanee-Conti, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, 1990. The price tag also includes a harpist, a poet and doves, as well as chef Adam Simmonds, who earned a Michelin star in 2006. 
One can probably assume that such an expensive and lavishly produced meal would include well prepared, tasty food, but not necessarily. It would be possible for a sumptuous meal to be lacking in palate-pleasing food.
Another reader suggests that unctuous may be a mistake for scrumptious; an interesting thought, as scrumptious is a colloquial coinage thought to be an altered form of sumptuous.
Initially, expensive or luxurious things were described as scrumptious, for example, “a scrumptious house.” Then, scrumptious became a general term of enthusiastic praise like wizard or smashing, for example, “That portrait of Thomas More is really scrumptious!” Finally, because it must have often been applied to food, scrumptious came to mean delicious.
Another comment points to a possible explanation for the trending use of unctuous with English-speaking cooks: onctuex (feminine, onctueuse) is used by French cooks to describe food that is creamy. However, I can’t think that a word meaning creamy is exactly the right one to describe a pork roast.
English has enough adjectives to describe things that taste good without resorting to unctuous or scrumptious. Here are a few:
–> Get access to 300+ interactive grammar exercises! Click here to start your free trial!

Source: Vocabulary

Etymons and Lemmas

If you understand the meaning of etymon and lemma in the two following statements, you may want to skip this post:
Papyrus is the etymon of paper.
An etymological dictionary gives the etymons or etymologies of its lemmas.
An etymon is the antecedent form of a word. It’s the word or any of the separate words from which another word has developed historically by borrowing, derivation, compounding, or in any other way. For example, the etymon of the English word etymon is the Greek word etymos, “true.” Etymos in turn is the etymon of Greek étumon, “the true sense of a word according to its origin.”
In modern usage, etymology refers to the branch of linguistics that deals with determining the origin of words and the historical development of their form and meanings.
For the ancients, the etymology or “true meaning” of a word might be found in its shape, sound, or superficial resemblance to another word. For example, one Christian commentator (writing in Latin) explained the “true” meaning of the Latin word for death (mors) by connecting it with the Latin word for bite (morsus). According to the biblical account, death entered the world when Eve took a bite out of the forbidden fruit. Ergo, the “true” meaning of death is rooted in the disobedient act described in Genesis.
Modern lexicographers determine the origin of a word by looking for evidence based on sound shifts, spellings, and cognates between languages.
The plural of etymon is either etymons or etyma.
Lemma derives from a Greek verb meaning “to take.” The first definition given in the OED is in the context of mathematics: “proposition assumed or demonstrated which is subsidiary to some other.”
In the context of literature, a lemma is defined as “the argument or subject of a literary composition, prefixed as a heading or title; also, a motto appended to a picture.”
The first OED citation of lemma in the context of lexicography is dated 1951. The definition for this use of lemma is “a lexical item as it is presented, usually, in a standardized form, in a dictionary entry.”
If you look up a word in the online Merriam-Webster Unabridged, you will find the word printed in large red letters. That large red word is the lemma.
The plural of lemma is either lemmas or lemmata.
Another word for lemma in the context of a dictionary entry is definiendum. Like the lemma, the definiendum is the word that heads the entry in a dictionary.
–> Get access to 300+ interactive grammar exercises! Click here to start your free trial!

Source: Vocabulary

Whom: More Than A Matter of Grammar

A reader browsing the DWT site reacted disdainfully to the use of who as an object in a DWT post about letter writing:

With all due respect, if you’re going to give advice, not only on content but on grammar, surely you need to double and triple-check that what you write is correct.

The reader is referring to a note that prefaces a post about how to write a letter of reference:

I will be using “candidate” to refer to the person who the reference letter is about, “you” to refer to the person writing the reference letter, and “recipient” to refer to the person receiving the letter.

I do indeed double- and triple-check all my posts for accuracy before hitting the Send button. Sometimes I read a post as many as six times and still manage to miss some source of embarrassment.

It happens that I’m not the author of the post that offended the reader, but the person who did write it knows the uses of who and whom perfectly well. I expect she made a conscious decision to write who.

Unlike the pronoun pairs I/me, he/him, she/her, we/us, and they/them—the misuse of which is a clear sign of ignorance or rebellion—the pair who/whom is a special case.

The object form whom is in the natural process of disappearing from English.

In its entry for the word, the OED defines whom as “the objective case of who,” but notes that it is “no longer current in natural colloquial speech.”

In all but the most formal writing and speech, the use of whom has become a sore point with many speakers.

A common television trope in comedies and dramas is that of one character using whom in a sentence and being promptly ridiculed by other characters. In the context of popular culture, whom smacks of elitism. Bloggers targeting a popular audience may be wise to choose who instead of whom in some contexts to avoid alienating their readers.

On the one hand, it is reasonable to expect writers who blog about language to pay strict attention to standard usage. On the other hand, even respected style guides point out that a writer may wish to avoid using whom according to where it falls in a sentence.

The Penguin Writer’s Manual acknowledges that whom “is being increasingly relegated to very formal use in modern English, especially in questions.” It gives this perspective on a recent DWT discusssion, the tendency to substitute that for who or whom when introducing an adjective clause:

Many people would argue that if the man who I saw yesterday is grammatically incorrect, the man whom I saw yesterday sounds pedantic, and it is better to say the man that I saw yesterday or, simply, the man I saw yesterday.

Many writers choose to use who instead of whom when the pronoun is separated from the governing preposition, as it is in the construction “the person who the reference letter is about” (instead of “the person whom the reference letter is about”).

Language is a fluid medium, historically and stylistically. The concept of “correct English” changes over time.

Whom is a word in transition. It won’t be the first pronoun form to drop from use. Until it goes the way of thou, thee, and ye, some speakers will use both forms in the old established way; some will use whom in certain contexts, but not in others; and some poor confused souls will try to use whom as a subject. Traditionalist that I am, I’ll probably go on using whom in my own writing, but I hesitate to condemn established colloquial usage in the writing of others.

Related posts:
Who vs Whom
Beware of “Whom”
With All Due Respect

–> Get access to 300+ interactive grammar exercises! Click here to start your free trial!

Source: Daily Tips

1 2 3 11