sangfroid or sang-froid (san-FRWA) noun

   Calmness, especially under stress.

[From French sang-froid (literally cold blood).]

  "He (Sergei Karjakin) has an awkward gait. His long arms do not swing at
   all as he glides along, but for a 12-year-old with a slight build and a
   sensible side-parting he has considerable sangfroid."
   Nigel Farndale; He's a Cold-blooded Chess Genius at 12; The Vancouver Sun
   (Canada); Jan 8, 2003.

  "Lemony Snicket's approach is wholly different, featuring the offhand
   sang-froid of a standup comedian."
   Kristi Beavin; Roller Skates; The Horn Book Magazine (Boston);
   Nov/Dec 2001.

After a recent week of words from law, where many of the words are of French
origin, I received this email from a reader:

  "I propose you no longer feature words which have a base or stem from
   the French language. I no longer see that as a positive e-mail."

In these times when emotions run high, it's understandable why someone would
say that, why US lawmakers would rename French fries and French toast in
their cafeteria menus. Or why some German professors think they need to
exclude English terms from their vocabulary.

This is not the first time linguistic revisionism is being attempted. During
World War I, in the US, some had tried to rename sauerkraut as "liberty
cabbage", for example. But we're all so interconnected, as are our languages,
that any such attempt quickly falls flat on its face.

"Freedom fries" they say? Well, there's still some French remaining, as the
word fry comes from Old French frire. "Freedom toast"? What about toast which
comes from Middle French toster. Thinking along these lines, we may even have
to rename the US (from Old French estat). Estimates vary, but one-quarter or
more of words in the English language have a French influence. In the two
lines that the above-mentioned reader sent us, at least six words have
French connections (propose, feature, base, language, positive, mail).

A language isn't owned by a country. French belongs as much to France as to
Senegal or Canada or anyone else who speaks it.



mail . . . page last updated 19/04/2002