Monday, May 28, 2007

Peu ou prou

Last Saturday, I went to the French Institute to listen to Philippe Thureau-Dangin, editor of Courrier international. I have been reading Courrier international for years: I like the concept, I like the broad international coverage, the way it presents different points of view, and even its use of advertisements. I really like the rubric Le livre, which introduces new authors and new books, often from places far away from obvious.

And I admire its use of French. The translations -- most of its articles are translated from articles in journals and magazines around the world -- are not only flawless and idiomatic, but often improve on the original in terms of clarity, logic, and conciseness, which are, in my opinion, the essential characteristics of a good writing. Once I compared several of its translations with English originals (all taken from reputable sources like the Guardian and the Independent) and could not but admit the superior skill of the CI journalists.

In real talk, the editor-in-chief did not disappont, and I who is always looking for new expressions, wrote down several. Peu ou prou was one of these. It means a little or a lot, more or less. Its unusual part prou originates, via old French, I learned, from the late Latin prode, meaning profitable. It is curious that the same Latin word resulted, again via old French, in proud in English. If Anglo-Saxon pride is something that makes you tick (not me), you can read about its carnival of the etymologies here.

No comments: