8 Insults That Only Work In French

iStock
iStock

by Roger Thomas

The French have a way with insults—even if something is a bit lost in translation.

1. VA TE FAIR VOIRE !

All this means is "Go be seen [somewhere else]!" Mild as it sounds, it's very ill-mannered indeed.

2. ANDOUILLE

While in America we think of Andouille as a smoked Cajun sausage, in France it’s one made from pig intestines—and also an insult meaning you’re bone idle or a dummy.

3. BONHOMME

Yes, it literally means "good man," but roughly translates as "geezer" or "bloke," with contemptuous overtones.

4. UNE VACHE ESPAGNOLE

Is your French poor or your accent inauthentic? If so, you speak the language like "a Spanish cow."

5. TU ME GONFLES.

"You are inflating me." This is a sharp, impolite reprimand to someone who is pushing you, the implication being that anything over-inflated is likely to explode.

6. TA GUEULE !

This is slang for "Your mouth!" It's actually short for "Ferme ta gueule" ("Shut your mouth") but somehow seems even ruder.

7. LAVETTE

Are you weak-willed and indolent? You are a dishcloth, perhaps not unrelated to an English "limp rag."

8. CASSE-TOI !

An instruction to "break yourself." Bugger off, basically.

In a Bold Move, Microsoft Office Is Now Flagging Double Spaces Between Sentences as an Error

Please, thumbs, step away from the spacebar.
Please, thumbs, step away from the spacebar.
Christina Morillo, Pexels

For decades, proponents of typing a single space after a period have waged a friendly war against their double-space adversaries on a virtual battlefield. Now, the battlefield itself is taking sides: Microsoft Word will now start marking double spaces between sentences as an error.

The change is definitely a gradual one, and you probably won’t see it on your own computer just yet. According to The Verge, Microsoft has been testing the edit on the desktop version of Word, and they’ll begin rolling it out to all users in the near future. Once they do, you will still be able to opt out of it—as with other spelling and grammar recommendations from Microsoft’s Editor feature, you can choose to accept the change, ignore it once, or disable that particular suggestion altogether.

“As the crux of the great spacing debate, we know this is a stylistic choice that may not be the preference for all writers, which is why we continue to test with users and enable these suggestions to be easily accepted, ignored, or flat out dismissed in Editor,” Kirk Gregersen, a Microsoft partner director of program management, told The Verge.

But even if you choose to ignore the actual edit, it’s harder to ignore the winds of change that are raising the inevitable white flag of surrender higher and higher into the air, much to the dismay of the ever-dwindling league of double-spacers.

If you’re new to this strange, specific battle of wills, it’s probably because you started typing sometime after the turn of the century, when computers had already replaced typewriters. On a typewriter, each character takes up the same amount of horizontal space. That means narrow letters like i have quite a bit of extra space on either side of them. The uneven distribution makes it difficult to tell when a space before a new sentence is actually indicating a new sentence, or is just extra space from a small character. To cut down on confusion, people adopted the practice of typing two spaces after every period. The practice prevailed even when computers—with much more proportionally spaced fonts—became the norm, since people had already been so well-trained to hit the spacebar twice at the start of each sentence.

With the entire publishing industry moving toward a single space, and Microsoft now actively joining the effort, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before seeing a double space after a period will be just as rare as actually using a typewriter.

[h/t The Verge]

Why Do So Many News Anchors Sound Alike?

News anchors have mastered the art of being linguistically neutral.
News anchors have mastered the art of being linguistically neutral.
iofoto/iStock via Getty Images

No matter which channel you tune into or what local broadcast you receive, news anchors share one common trait beyond professional attire and perfect hair. They tend to sound exactly the same, from their cadence to enunciation to a completely curious lack of a regional accent. How does that happen?

Broadcasters didn’t always sound so geographically neutral. In the early part of the 20th century, many radio personalities and performers adopted what was known as a Mid-Atlantic accent, or a blend of mannered British and the East Coast dialect of the United States. This polished, proper method of speaking was popular in Hollywood movies of the 1930s and on radio because it signaled some kind of upper-class education and erudition. Thanks to America’s infatuation with England, sounding even vaguely British made people sound intelligent. Pundits like William F. Buckley Jr. carried the Mid-Atlantic torch even as it fell out of favor in entertainment.

The more contemporary practice of sounding linguistically neutral is often referred to as having a General American accent—which is a bit misleading, since there’s really not much of an accent at all. Also referred to as Standard American, Broadcast English, or Network English, General American was a term first used in the 1920s and '30s by linguists who wanted to isolate a more widespread accent than the New England or Southern dialects. The scholar George Philip Krapp used the phrase in his 1925 book The English Language in America; linguist John Kenyon referred to it in his 1930 title American Pronunciation, where he insisted that 90 million Americans spoke General American.

As the century wore on, a wider range of regional accents were recognized, and it became almost impossible to generalize between New England, Southern, and General American. Though some linguists disagree on the definition of General American, it’s still largely considered a speaking voice that lacks regional flair.

So why do news anchors rely on it? One of the biggest reasons is to keep their employment opportunities open. Local anchors who deliver the nightly news for affiliate stations are often vagabonds, taking jobs across the country, and those different networks prefer a General American accent. If an anchor hailing from the South committed to delivering the day’s top stories in a Southern accent, for example, it’s not likely a New York station would feel viewers could warm to them. Likewise, a Brooklyn accent might sound peculiar when Los Angeles residents want a rundown of local headlines.

But an accent is only a portion of a broadcaster’s delivery. At broadcasting schools, television journalists are trained to speak at a moderate speed and enunciate each word clearly. (Whether they realize it or not, young broadcasters may also start out emulating their news anchor heroes who had impeccable diction, like Walter Cronkite or Ted Koppel.) No letters are dropped. Sentences are composed for ease of reading off a teleprompter.

Plain speaking also needs to fit whatever footage is being shown while the anchor is talking. Uneven modulation could be distracting, though some anchors do choose to emphasize words by drawing them out (“muur-der”) or adopt a more somber tone when reporting on tragic events.

Some anchors have also reported being more careful with their speech because broadcast microphones are often unforgiving. Words beginning with P tend to pop, for example. Broadcasting school drills out the kind of casual and conversational voice that doesn’t translate well to a newscast.

Of course, some linguists believe there’s no such thing as being totally free of an accent. A Southerner trying to remove any trace of a drawl is going to sound different than someone from New England attempting to do the same. We may not notice simply because humans aren’t that great at recognizing more subtle accents, especially our own. Broadcasters may sound alike in large part because they all enunciate and attempt to achieve articulatory precision. Few anchors will say “dubya.” They will say “double-you.” But that occasional “dubya” is what makes speech patterns sound different.

And that’s all the news we have today.

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