or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Mouthful

Employing a somewhat less than fully naturalized foreign-language expression is a perilous endeavour, because unless you know the original language, the odds are unfortunately good that you're going to get it wrong somehow.

Here's are a few sentences from a recent Slate article about Christmas gift-giving:

Cheese may, at first, seem like a bright idea. A lovely hunk of parmesan, or a log of bucheron—delicious dairy twists on the Bouche de Noel. What red-blooded American doesn't love fine foreign cheese?

What red-blooded Canadian doesn't want to see French spelled correctly?

You'd think that "bucheron", not a word in everyone's vocabulary, might have been a hint that "Bouche de Noel" was incorrect. Last things first: "bouche" is the French word for "mouth", whereas "bûche"*, a very different thing, means "log". The Bûche de Noel is a traditional French (and Canadian) dessert at Christmastime, a sort of jelly roll cunningly decorated to resemble a log, hence the name.

"Bucheron", or "boucheron", or even "bûcheron", is a kind of cheese sold in the form of a log or roll, and the name accordingly means "logger" or "woodcutter". See how it all fits together?

The Slate writer, and any subsequent editors (if there are any), didn't.

* It is tempting to guess that "bûche" is directly derived from "bush", since that circumflex usually denotes a vanished ess, making it "busche". It sort of is, distantly, but it's actually from "bois", "wood", that word being related, at some remove, to "bush".


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