Eleanor Levieux and Michel Levieux Insiders' French: Beyond the Dictionary

"From abracadabrant to ZAC, this unconventional lexicon will bring you up to speed. . . . More than a linguistic exercise, the carefully chosen entries and entertaining examples provide a verbal snapshot of today's France."—France

"[E]nables you to understand what the newspapers are going on about when you have not lived [in France] for a while."—Philip Thody, Times Higher Education Supplement

"This is a useful reference book to those students of French who may be bewildered by seemingly odd uses of ordinary words and who find a standard dictionary of little help."—The Lecturer

"Plus qu'un dictionnaire, presque un ouvrage de sociologie."—Le Nouvel Economiste

Sample entries from
Insiders' French
Beyond the Dictionary
Eleanor Levieux and Michel Levieux

adepte (m. or f.) Most often heard in the sense of a member of a sect: see Ordre du temple solaire

baladeur (m.) The name officially bestowed on the Walkman® by the Délégation générale de la langue française, the French government committee in charge of devising-and stipulating the use of-words in French to supplant or prevent the use of words borrowed from English. Although a pleasing word, from se balader, "to stroll or go on an excursion," it has not caught on enough to oust un walkman, des walkman. See Conseil supérieur de la langue française

"cela fait" plus noun without definite article. Convenient little phrase, as in Cela fait problème; "That's a problem." Cela fait désordre: an ironic way of saying, "That's kind of messy/not very neat/not proper."

dumping (m.) social Faire du dumping social, to adopt or follow an economic system that does not ensure a minimum (monthly) wage, pays a low hourly rate, and/or provides little or no safety net for workers. Les Français, envieux du taux de chômage en Angleterre, qui est moins de la moitié du taux en France, oublient que ce pays pratique le dumping social, note certain French economists; "The French, who envy the English their low unemployment rate (less than half the French rate), forget that England practices social dumping."

eurocrate (m. or f.) Pejorative, like technocrate; both are modeled on the word aristocrate.

foulard (m.) A scarf, you may say. Quite right. But in today's media, le foulard instantly means le foulard islamique, le chador or tchador. Le port du foulard s'est produit pour la premiêre fois au Collège de Creil en 1989; "The first time a Muslim pupil wore the headscarf to school was in 1989, at a junior high school in Creil." "Le port du foulard est une atteinte au 'pacte de la nation,'" said François Bayrou, Ministre de l'Education nationale, in October 1993; "When Muslim girls wear the Islamic head scarf to school in France, that is an attack on the 'nation's pact' with all of its citizens." Le foulard is also sometimes called le voile. See Clovis; laicité; tchador; voile à l'école

Galligrasseuil A satirical or cynical joke; the name of a fictitious publisher combining the first syllables of the names of the three real publishers-Gallimard, Grasset and Editions du Seuil-that tend, year after year, to win most of the major French literary prizes, le Goncourt, le Renaudot, le Fémina, le Médicis, and l'Interallié. It is often alleged that the awarding of these prizes every autumn is rigged so that Galligrasseuil will win; of course, the allegation is just as often denied.

goncourable Said of a book or author that or who seems to stand a good chance of winning le prix Goncourt. See Galligrasseuil

histoire (f.) belge A joke that makes fun of the Belgians; a very special form of French humor. See Belgique

info (f.) ou intox (f.) A succinct summing up of the ongoing debate over the quality, or not, of today's mass media: sont-ils source d'information ou d'intoxication? Est-ce de l'info ou de l'intox? "Do they inform or deform?"

jour J (m.) The great day, or D day, so to speak: the appointed day, whatever it may be. Les préparatifs étaient très fatigants, mais ça valait la peine parce que le jour J tout était fin prêt; "The preparations were very tiring, but it was worth it because on the appointed day everything was ready down to the last detail."


Copyright notice: ©1999 Excerpted from Insiders' French: Beyond the Dictionary by Eleanor Levieux and Michel Levieux, published by the University of Chicago Press. ©1999 by Eleanor Levieux and Michel Levieux. All rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that this entire notice, including copyright information, is carried and provided that the University of Chicago Press is notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the consent of University of Chicago Press.

Eleanor Levieux and Michel Levieux
Insiders' French: Beyond the Dictionary
©1999, 270 pages
Cloth $37.50 ISBN: 978-0-226-47502-8
Paper $12.00 ISBN: 978-0-226-47503-5

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