Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Word Of The Week

rameau (x)

While the French are by law a secular society (they threw out the idea of a state religion after the revolution), the primary religion in France is Catholicism. France's catholic history and traditions have peppered the calendar with many holidays and special days.

Nearly every day of the year is named for a catholic saint. Today, for example, is St. Isidore's day. Isidore was the Spanish bishop of Seville in the 7th century, who died on this day in 636.

Those days that are not saints' days are either major religious days like Easter/Pâques or Christmas/Noël, or secular holidays like Labor Day/Fête du travail (May 1) or Victory/Victoire 1945 (May 8), or Bastille Day/Fête Nationale (July 14).

This past Sunday, being the week before Easter, was Dimanche des Rameaux or Palm Sunday.

Rameau (singular) comes from the latin ramus, meaning the small branch of a tree, hence the meaning for the catholic religion. But the word is used for branches of figurative trees as well, such as a family tree or the tree of evolution, or even for branches in the circulatory and nervous systems. Rameau is also the root of ramification, a word which means essentially the same thing in English as in French.

And I always thought it had something to do with rowing...

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