Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Word Of The Week

Scélérat (e)

This adjective that doubles as a noun came up in a conversation we had with our friend Charles-Henry a few weeks ago. We were talking about faux amis, those words in French and in English that are the same or similar but that mean totally different things. Examples include:

  • eventuellement and eventually; the French word means "possibly" or "potentially."
  • actuel and actual; the French word means "topical," "current" or what’s going on right now.
  • allure and allure; the French word means "speed" as in the speed at which your car moves.
  • assister and assist; the French word means to "attend" as in a concert or play.
  • raisin and raisin; the French word means "grape."

So, our conversation was about the words vilain and villain. In French, the word means ugly, nasty, disagreeable. In English, of course, it’s a bad guy or criminal. Which brings us to this week’s word: scélérat. It’s the French equivalent to the English villain (bad guy or criminal), like Snidely Whiplash here on the left, the arch-villain from the old Dudley Do-Right cartoons who kept tying poor Nell to the railroad tracks.

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