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.

September 6: Borrowed Words from French Day

Today is the birthday of Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834), the French general and aristocrat who played a significant role in both the American Revolution and the French Revolution.

Lafayette argued on behalf of the American colonists, persuading King Louis XVI of France to send French troops to aid the colonists’ struggle for independence from Britain. George Washington gave him command of an army at Virginia, and he fought valiantly on the American side at both Valley Forge and Yorktown.

Lafayette returned to France in 1782. Clearly influenced by his experience in the American Revolution, he became active in French politics drafting the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen” which was adopted by the National Assembly in 1789. During the French Revolution he protected the royal family from attack at Versailles, but he lost popularity in his homeland when his soldiers fired on a crowd of demonstrators who were demanding that King Louis XVI abdicate his throne. During the tumultuous revolution, he fled to Austria but returned later when Napoleon Bonaparte rose to power.

President George W. Bush, on July 24, 2002, made Lafayette an honorary citizen of the United States, making him only the sixth person ever to receive such an honor (1).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxnTdBW3_9g

Just as the United States benefited from borrowing Lafayette from the French, so too has the English language benefited from its liberal borrowing from the French language. With the invasion of Britain in 1066, the French language took a prominent role, especially in the language of government, law, and the military. Since that time and under more peaceful circumstances, English has continued to borrow hundreds of words from French.

Below are some examples of common English words that have their origins in French:

ambulance, bastion, cache, detour, entrepreneur, faux pas, gaffe, hors d’oeuvre, lieutenant, macabre, niece, omelette, picnic, queue, raffle, souvenir, trophy, umpire, velocity, wardrobe, zigzag (2).

Today’s Challenge: Be a Borrower and a Lender
Using a good dictionary, search for other examples of English words and/or phrases with French origins.

Quote of the Day: I stand and listen to people speaking French in the stores and in the street. It’s such a pert, crisp language, elegant as ruffling taffeta. –Belva Plain

 

1 – The Teacher’s Calendar of Famous Birthdays (The Editors of McGraw Hill). New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003.

2 – http://www.krysstal.com/borrow_french.html

September 3: Treaty of Paris Day

Today is the anniversary of the signing of the 1783 Treaty of Paris which ended the Revolutionary War. The treaty document was signed at the Hotel de York by David Hartley — the British Representative — and John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay, representing the colonies. In what was entitled “The Definitive Treaty of Peace Between His Britannic Majesty and the United States of America,” Britain recognized the thirteen colonies as free and independent states for the first time (1).

From the beginning of the Revolutionary War until the end, from the Declaration of Independence to the Treaty of Paris, two synonymous words were paramount in the colonists’ struggle against the British: freedom and liberty. Since the French served as midwife for American independence, it’s appropriate that one of these words is of French origin: liberty, from Old French via Latin. Freedom is of Anglo-Saxon origin.

The dictionary definitions from the American Heritage Dictionary are so similar as to be practically indistinguishable:

Freedom: The condition of being free of restraints.

Liberty: The condition of being free from restriction or control.

 

Today’s Challenge: Freedom’s Just Another Name for . . . Liberty
Memorable quotes don’t resonate with the reader by accident. They are crafted using stylistic devices (also known as rhetorical techniques) that make them stand out like italicized passages. The eight quotes below all refer to either freedom or liberty. Each quote also features one of the seven rhetorical techniques defined below. From the three options given for each quote, see if you can identify the most prominent rhetorical technique.

Allusion: A passing reference to a proper noun from history, the Bible, mythology, or literature.

Antithesis: Contrasting ideas used in a parallel structure in the same line or same sentence.

Irony: Saying the opposite of what is meant or expected.

Metaphor: A figurative comparison of two unrelated nouns.

Parallelism: Repetition of grammatical structures in writing.

Personification: Using human attributes to describe things.

Simile: A figurative comparison of two unrelated nouns using “like” or “as.”

1. Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth. –George Washington
Metaphor, Allusion, Parallelism

2. Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed — else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die. –Dwight D. Eisenhower
Irony, Allusion, Simile

3. Another thing: What has liberty done for us? Nothing in particular that I know of. What have we done for her? Everything. We’ve given her a home, and a good home, too. And if she knows anything, she knows it’s the first time she every struck that novelty. –Mark Twain
Parallelism, Allusion, Personification

4. Liberty, n. One of Imagination’s most precious possessions. –Ambrose Bierce
Irony, Allusion, Parallelism

5. We Americans are the peculiar, chosen people–the Israel of our time; we bear the ark of the liberties of the world. –Herman Melville
Irony, Allusion, Parallelism

6. We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. –Thomas Jefferson
Irony, Personification, Parallelism

7. Nothing brings more Pain than too much Pleasure; nothing more bondage than too much Liberty. –Benjamin Franklin
Metaphor, Antithesis, Allusion

8. As long as men are free to ask what they must, free to say what they think, free to think what they will, freedom can never be lost, and science can never regress. –John F. Kennedy
Metaphor, Parallelism, Antithesis (3).

Word of the Day: Revolution
This word, originally from French, emerged in the 14th century as an astronomy term referring to the movement of celestial bodies. It did not acquire a political meaning until the 1600s, where it was used to describe turnarounds in power as well as in planets. The word took on new connotations in 1987 when the song Revolution became the first Beatles song ever to be featured in a television commercial. The ad prompted Paul McCartney to say, “Songs like Revolution don’t mean a pair of sneakers, they mean Revolution” (4).

Quote of the Day: What other liberty is there worth having, if we have not freedom and peace in our minds — if our inmost and most private man is but a sour and turbid pool? –Henry David Thoreau

Answers: 1. Metaphor 2. Metaphor 3. personification 4. irony 5. allusion 6. parallelism 7. antithesis 8. Parallelism

1- http://www.freedomshrine.com/documents/paris.html
2 – Klos, Stanley L. Treaty of Paris. http://www.treatyofparis.com/
3 – The Book of American Values and Virtues (Edited by Erik A. Bruun and Robin Getzen). New York: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 1996.
4 – Online Etymology Dictionary
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?l=r&p=14