or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Friday, January 06, 2006

Au Contraire

From today's Slate.com review of the new Woody Allen movie:

Johansson brings the spirit of Hollywood with her wherever she goes these days, and Match Point is no exception. She has grown up so fast (too fast?), from the little anomic mallrat from Ghost World to self-conscious Hollywood royalty, with a permanent magic-hour glow now ladled over her like au jus.

Why do Americans seem to think that "au jus" is a noun? I blame Arby's, which regularly shows horrible TV ads for "roast beef sandwiches with hot au jus".

"Au jus" is not a noun, but an adjectival phrase; it's French for "with juice". (If "au jus" were a noun, it ought to be the pan juices from the roasted beef, a sort of un-gravied gravy, but it's a pretty good bet that, as Arby's presents the stuff, it's flavoured water. I wouldn't know; I'm not going to order a ramekin of something called "au jus", any more than I'm going to order a sandwich with a pile of something called "mit Sauerkraut".)

I'm not quite doctrinaire enough to demand that every word we import from another language retain every vestige of its original sense, but this one is just too new to be fully naturalized, and it sounds pretentious, to say the least. (Here's a page that features some people defending this revolting usage. They're wrong; it's indefensible. Answers.com agrees with me, calling the usage "nonsensical".)

If I had been Steven Metcalf's editor, I would have at least suggested "demi-glace".


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just found this post by searching for "au jus is not a noun." I'm glad I'm not the only person that is bugged by this.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008 12:44:00 PM  

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