A number of foreign phrases have permeated the English language. How fluent are you in these popular turns of phrase? Take our quiz to find out! (Note: pronunciations are in parenthesis.)
Question of 10
If you have a raison d'être (RAY-zohn DEH-truh), what do you have a reason for?
This popular French phrase translates to "reason for being," as the verb être stands for "to be." So, someone who really loves brownies might say, "Brownies are my raison d'être."
A persona non grata (purr-SOH-nuh nahn GRAH-tuh) is someone who is:
Latin in origin, this phrase is used to denote someone who is unwelcome or unacceptable.
What does the phrase bon appétit! (bohn app-aytee) literally mean?
Enjoy your meal!
Have a good digestion!
Although the French phrase literally suggests that someone have a good digestion, most people use it to communicate "enjoy your meal." Just please, whatever you do, don't pronounce the "te" at the end.
Eat a bon-bon!
If you're a mensch (mentsh), what are some of your main personality characteristics?
lazy, messy and unmotivated
honorable and having a lot of integrity
Mensch is just one of many Yiddish words that pepper Western conversations, particularly among those with Jewish heritage. It means a person of honor and integrity.
sneaky, smart and conniving
Which is an example of the correct usage of the French word chez (shay)?
"I'm eating at chez Pierre."
"I'm eating chez Pierre."
Chez is French for "at the home of." It can also be used with a person's name, as in, "I'm eating chez Pierre" or dining at Pierre's home. Do not add "at" into the mix, as it is redundant.
I'm eating in chez Pierre.
Some foreign phrases have no English equivalent. What does schadenfreude (SHAH-duhn-froiduh) mean?
to get pleasure from others' misfortunes
Schadenfreude comes from two German words that mean "harm" and "joy." It means to take pleasure in the misfortunes of others; for instance, the feeling you get when a moralizing politician has to resign over an adulterous affair.
to feel sorry for other people
to feel embarrassed when you make a fool of yourself
This Danish word has spawned a cottage industry in English devoted to explaining its philosophy.
Hygge ("hue-gah" or "hoo-gah") is a Danish word with no direct English translation, though "cozy" comes close. Several books and websites have sprung up devoted to the hygge lifestyle of Denmark, which involves activities like sitting around a fireplace with friends while wearing woolly socks.
Which of the following is the definition of the Latin ad nauseum (ad-NAZ-ee-om)?
to a sickening degree
If someone says you're talking about something ad nauseum, you might want to give it a rest. That's because it's used to describe something going on in an annoying or repetitive nature until it becomes sickening.
until it makes me ill
Which of these French words or phrases should you never use in France?
oh là là
If you think you're impressing the waiter in a French restaurant by calling him garçon (GAR-sohn) think again. The word literally means "boy." Calling him monsieur (muh – syuh) i.e. "sir" might get you a better reaction.
This word or phrase describes a coming-of-age novel.
pièce de résistance
roman à clef
Bildungsroman (bildooNGZrom-ahn)comes from two German words that mean "novel" and "education" and often describes a coming-of-age story, like "Catcher in the Rye." A Roman à clef is a novel based on true events, often thinly veiled. Pièce de résistance is the most important item (usually of a meal).