Sunday, 7 December 2014

bon mot

Although we have only last left our intrepid Language at the mercy of the Viking raiders and have not yet gotten to the Norman Invasion and that cliff-hanger for the Anglo-Saxons, which lent English fully one-third of its vocabulary and influenced grammar and orthography to a great deal, the Mental Floss list of French phrases that ought to be brought back into common-parlance was to good to wait on until the narrative catches up. There were quite a few priceless expressions that could easily be incorporated into everyday speech and it is pretty lamentable that lingual affinities are not as wide-spread as they once were. I especially like le roi fainéant, a do-nothing king and a term that could describe our friends the Merovingians or Charlemagne’s ineffectual issue, mise en abyme which describes something akin to the Droste effect, an image within its own image, and honi soit qui mal y pense—shame on him who thinks ill of it—do not jump to conclusions or talk something down prematurely, which was a quip by Edward III, the English courtly language being French in his day, which has a pretty interesting provenance.
Mad Princess Joan of Kent curried, unfairly, such a name because of eccentricities that were deemed unbecoming of the royal family, including eloping with a a young lover, a commoner, and subsequently also marrying the baron that her parents had arranged for her to and apparently unconcerned about bigamy or secret weddings. Although not the most conventional creatures of the court, the later mother to the unstable Richard II was still welcome at official functions. During a ball, Joan experienced a wardrobe malfunction while dancing with the king—who, suffering the snickers of some of his nobles and Joan’s withering humiliation, retrieved her fallen garter and adjusted her stocking. Presumably reserving this new honour for those who had not laughed at this act of chivalry, Edward III went on to establish the Most Noble Order of the Garter, the motto of the knights being the above phrase.