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French talk

Posted by ESC on August 13, 2002

In Reply to: RSVP posted by R. Berg on August 13, 2002

: : Where did the custom originate that English speaking countries would use a French term?

: In England, which was ruled by the French for a while (will some history major please help me out here?). English is full of borrowings from other languages, apart from the influence of the period of French occupation on many English words. The earliest example of "RSVP" in the Oxford English Dictionary is dated about 1845, long after the Anglo-Saxons got their country back.

From our beloved archives:
".After the Revolutionary War our young nation loved its French ally and the French Revolution, and hence French customs, words, and food (which Thomas Jefferson, U.S. Minister to France from 1785 to 1789, helped popularize.) Thus, from the time of Independence, fine American eating establishments have often had a French flavor and a French accent.The French word 'restaurant' ("restoring") was first used to mean an eating establishment in Paris in 1763, then recorded as being used in America in 1827, which was several years before it was used in England.fancy eating places made the word 'restaurant' a part of everyone's vocabulary between the late 1820s and 1855 and, during that same period, added such further French terms to America's restaurant vocabulary as 'filet,' 'bisque,' 'table d'bote,' 'maitre d',' and 'a la' this or that, though the words, then as now, were often more French than the food or service. 'Pie a la mode' had become a dessert and term since the 1880s but became widely known only after Delmonico's added it to its menu around 1918." Delmonico's, established at 44th St. and 5th Ave. in New York in 1897, was the "best loved, most-talked-about restaurant in America." From Listening to America: An Illustrated History of Words and Phrases from Our Lively and Splendid Past by Stuart Berg Flexner (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1982).

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