July 14:  Bastille Day

Today is the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, the Paris prison fortress of King Louis XVI. In 1789, 13 years after the American colonists had rebelled against the British monarchy, the citizens of France rose up against the despotism of King Louis, releasing prisoners from the Bastille and raiding its arms and ammunition.

Prise de la Bastille.jpgLouis and his wife, Marie Antoinette, were arrested at their residence in Versailles, the entire royal family was eventually executed by guillotine, and the Bastille was razed.

Among the climate of chaos and anarchy, the National Assembly established the French Republic. Although true democracy did not result from the French Revolution, the absolute monarchy in France was permanently abolished (1).

Something that may never be abolished is the relationship between the French and the English languages.

This relationship began in 1066 with the Norman Invasion, led by William the Conqueror. With a Norman king of England, French became the language of the government. Though the Anglo-Saxon tongue became a second-class language in England, it still remained alive and well as the language of the common people. In fact, there were fewer French words absorbed into English during the Norman reign (approximately 1,000 words) than after an English king regained the throne. Between 1250 and 1500, more than 9,000 French words were absorbed into English.

English is a Germanic language. Its most frequently used words are Anglo-Saxon — grammar words, such as pronouns, prepositions, and conjunctions. However, a higher percentage of English vocabulary words comes from other languages, principally the Romance languages — the descendants of Latin, such as French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Romanian.

Next to Latin, more of these vocabulary words were absorbed from French than any other language. The following words are a small sample of common English words that have French origins:

liberty

revenue

crime

justice

ticket

essay

religion

connoisseur

ridicule

dentist (2)

Today’s Challenge:  A Tour of Your ‘Tour de Force’ Structure
What are examples of man-made structures (such as buildings, bridges, statues, etc.) you would put on your list of most iconic structures ever constructed by human hands?  Which one would you argue is the most iconic of them all?

Although the Bastille no longer stands, it remains in our memory as a historic and iconic man-made structure.  It is the rare structure whose name alone evokes both images and feelings, whether good or bad.  One test of such a structure’s iconic status is whether or not its geographic location is common knowledge.  Peruse the list of iconic structures below to see if you can identify where in the world each is located.  Also consider what pictures and feelings, if any, you associate with each one:

The Colosseum

The Great Wall

Stonehenge

The Statue of Liberty

Fallingwater

The Twin Towers

The Panama Canal

The Space Needle

The Golden Gate Bridge

The Grand Coulee Dam

Saint Peter’s Basilica

The White House

The Taj Mahal

Select the single man-made structure from your list that you think is most iconic.  Make your case by stating your reasons, and do a bit of research to give your audience some impressive details and evidence that go beyond the obvious.

Quotation of the Day: The thing that’s wrong with the French is that they don’t have a word for entrepreneur. -George W. Bush

 

1 – Yenne, Bill. 100 Events that Shaped World History. San Francisco: Bluewood Books, 1993.

2 – Reader’s Digest Success with Words: A Guide to the American Language. Pleasantville, New York: The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1983.