Dances with Words: Neither a borrower nor a lender be

by Nick Wolochatiuk ~ Dances With Words
Dances with Words: Neither a borrower nor a lender be
(Photo : Seaway News)

Polonius gave that advice to Laertes before his son set off for Paris. Those words may apply if a someone may be considering lending money to a friend, but there are situations where it does not apply. On bike trips, I’ve sometimes had to borrow a specialized repair tool. I gladly lend items to travellers in their times of need.

How dreary our English language would be if we did not borrow from others. I’ll use the rest of my column to illustrate how we Anglophones do not follow the advice of Polonius.

Eating is one of my favourite activities, so I’ll start with that. Finishing off a day on the mountain with some après-ski camaraderie at a café, bistro or brasserie, it’s the ambiance that plays an important part, not any hâute cuisine. The sommelier appears soon after the mâitre d’. I have a choice of menus, table d’hôte or à la carte. The hors d’oeuvres are sure to whet my appetite. After that I may opt for a fondue. Being a bit of a messy eater, I ask for a serviette. To finish off, a croissant or a crêpe for dessert, followed by a celebratory glass of champagne.

If a couple of aperitifs also preceded the meal, it would be in order to have a chauffeur pick up your car at covoiturage and take you home. Otherwise, you’d be likely to take a detour and end up in a cul-de-sac. En route, it would be advisable to stop off at one of the Highway 401’s ‘en route / on route’ rest stops.

Any time spent on a mountain involves French terminology. Stumbling across the moraine at the foot of the glacier, one might find a couloir or a deep crevasse. Even the breaking off of a cornice could trigger an avalanche. If you gaze up beyond the cirque, you’ll see a couple of the massif’s arêtes, with a col between them. If you’re lucky, you’ll see some grazing chamois.

A flight in an aircraft would be a delightful way to see alpine scenery. The monocoque fuselage of a DHC-6 Twin Otter is strong enough to survive vigorous application of the ailerons during steep banking turns. The rudder on the empennage is equally robust. The turboprop engines housed in the nacelles have more than enough power.

Any linguistic pundit who does a negative critique on my attempt to show how integral French terminology is to our English vocabulary, will have to answer to my 1950s French teachers, Father Mullin and Father O’Brien. Yes, if they were alive today, they’d turn over in their graves.

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