Three French Phrases English Loves to Borrow image

For the third day of LitMas, we’re offering you three French phrases English speakers love to borrow. There’s something kind of glamorous about sprinkling foreign phrases into your conversations every now and then, don’t you think?

1 Joyeux Noël ’Tis the season of wondering what noel means. In French, Noël simply means Christmas. If you’re not sure about joyeux, go ahead and take a guess—you’re probably right. Joyeux means happy. So joyeux Noël is the French way of saying merry Christmas. Now you have something magnifique to say to your Francophone friends!

2 Amuse-bouche Hosting a fancy holiday dinner party? Don’t forget the amuse-bouches. They’re like hors d’oeuvres (hey, there’s another French phrase!), but amuse-bouches are typically served as bite-size morsels. Amuse-bouche is French for “mouth amuser.” Feel free to amuse your guests with this fact.

3 Canard OK, this one takes a little bit of explanation. Canard is French for duck. To English speakers, a canard is a hoax or an untrue rumor. Huh? The meaning comes from the old French idiom vendre des canards à moitié, to half-sell ducks (or, in other words, to trick someone). This may be the word you’re looking for if you get stuck listening to Uncle Carl pontificate about conspiracy theories at dinner.

And, no, we don’t know how one goes about half-selling a duck. If you figure it out, let us know.

Bonus phrase: RSVP

Speaking of parties, do the right thing and RSVP to that invitation. Your host needs to know how much ice to get! RSVP stands for répondez s’il vous plaît, meaning “please respond.”

Which French phrases will you trot out this holiday season?

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