French language and culture commentary from the U.S. capital

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Speaking in Color: Emotional Red, White, & Blue Idioms


As in other languages, colors en français have been culturally appropriated into everyday expressions to make certain moods, emotions, and behaviors more verbally vibrant. And while nearly every color of the rainbow has a place somewhere in the French language, we thought we’d take a look at a few idioms stemming from the nationalistic sliver of the spectrum: those involving le bleu, le blanc, et le rouge. Bleu Sure to be familiar to Anglophones is… Read More

Regions of France: The South


Whether you’re a traveler just passing through or an avid Francophile, you’re probably familiar with a few locations scattered around the hexagone whose names are inextricably linked with certain images: Burgundy for its wine, Saint-Tropez for its luxurious seaside resorts, Normandy for the D-Day beaches. France is indeed a nation that promises a rich mélange of experiences to entice anyone from the photographer to the antiquarian to the foodie, but to best appreciate its abundance it can be useful… Read More

The French Connection: Hollywood à la Française


The overwhelming influence of Hollywood and American media around the globe is hardly headline news, with films, television, and music spreading like wildfire around the world with varying degrees of adaptation and localization. Despite this impact, however, the Hollywood machine has also become an unsuspecting expert at the inverse: borrowing and adapting plenty of its own films from foreign origins. It might even surprise you, in fact, to learn that a number of seemingly… Read More

Food for Thought: Five Culinary “Phrases Idiomatiques”


If there’s two things that go better than peas and carrots, it’s the French and their food. Thankfully, they’re the cream of the crop when it comes to their culinary skills, so though the cliché may be old as the hills, at least it cuts the mustard. They own world-renowned culinary schools, debate over which restaurants merit the coveted Michelin stars, and pride themselves on having some of the best chefs in the world. If… Read More

5 French Pastries That Will Make Your Mouth Water


Buttery flakes of tender, delicate pastry that melt in your mouth, with a gush of warm chocolat that evokes the very spirit of France — a perfect, just-out-of-the-oven pain au chocolat is a near life-changing pastry, it’s true. But as iconic as it is, it is by no means the only French pastry worth salivating over. La patisserie and  la boulangerie are essential fixtures of any French town, whose daily commerce in croissants and baguettes is often their… Read More

(Semi) Faux Amis Starting with “I”


We’re back again sorting through those pesky false cognates. Following on the last post, we’ll tackle a few more semi faux amis, that is, words that have a common meaning in both languages and a secondary, different meaning. Remember, in most cases it all depends on the context. So without any further ado — and because it takes more than “I,” alone, to have a friendship at all — here is a… Read More

Scents and Scensibility: A short history of French perfume


Smell is often taken for granted. Like all our senses, smell acts as an alert system for the body: Smoke indicates a nearby fire, a sour odor means the milk has gone bad, and a whiff of bad egg lets you know there’s sulfur in the tap water. On the other hand, it also serves as much more than a biological warning sign, triggering positive associations that enhance taste, stimulate mood, recall memories,… Read More

Bandol: the perfect end of summer red


Getting stuck in a wine rut is easy in summer, especially in Washington. The heat and humidity make classic seasonal food and wine pairings difficult to shake: Oysters? Muscadet. Dover sole? Sancerre. Lamb? Light burgundy. New vintages and vintners preserve a measure of novelty, but even there it can be tough to escape the ordinary. Dans ce cadre, consider Bandol, a French commune at the edge of the Mediterranean Sea and the most serious wine in sunny, coastal Provence. Bandol is known… Read More

Diving into Parisian Legend at Piscine Molitor


It may be the city’s busiest season, but at several hours’ drive from any beach, summer weather in the French capital is far from ideal: Alternating waves of heat and rain descend over the city, elements which, interspersed with thick clouds of smog and pollution, can make life in Paris pretty unbearable at times. A decade ago, just after the Millenium, former Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe fought the meteorological oppression and brought a trace of the seaside… Read More

Navigating French Liaisons


If you sometimes feel like your French doesn’t quite roll off the tongue like you think it should, then take note, because mastering the liaison is one of the crucial keys to polishing your French accent. Grammatically speaking, a liaison is the change in pronunciation of a word where a normally silent consonant at the end of the word is articulated in pairing with the first letter of the next word. In French, this… Read More