One thing Mae and I share is a love of words. We are both fascinated with language and how we use it, especially unusual or quirky terms. When she got home, she sent me a note referencing something she’d read in political pundit Charles Krauthammer’s column. The word that she wanted me to have from it was Esprit d’escalier, which is the French term for thinking of the perfect devastating riposte that one should have given, but comes up with only on the way out, at the bottom of the staircase. Thus, “wit of the staircase.”
Esprit d’escalier—wow! What a great term for coming up with the right crushing reply just a little too late. And it has the added bonus of being French, which is always a win for me. Incorporating French into my everyday usage is fun and helps me remember enough of the language that I won’t embarrass myself next time I go to Paris (that is happening!).
Mon Amie is one my favorite endearments for friends and I often sign emails to my closest friends with, Bises, which is the word for the French way of kissing each cheek in greeting. C’est la vie, c’est la guerre, c’est la pomme de terre is one of Son’s and my favorites. Translated literally, it’s “that’s life, that’s war, that’s a potato” but it means “That’s the way it goes” or “Dems de breaks,” and sometimes replaces merde (shit) when a disgusted French person is trying to be polite. I use Je ne sais quoi (I don’t know) and je t’aime (I love you) often. Husband and Son simply grin at each other. They know French is part of life with Nan, and that it’s not pretension on my part at all, but rather just a love of the language. Using French makes me happy.
So talk to me—tell me your favorite foreign phrases—the ones that bring you joy when you have the opportunity to include them in a conversation. Or share a great English word that makes you gleeful when you have the chance to use it.