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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Expression of the Day: grosso modo

No, we haven’t changed to Italian. Grosso modo is actually a common French expression with Latin roots.

French Expression of the Day: grosso modo
Photo: Depositphotos
Why do I need to know grosso modo?
 
This expression can help you to add nuance when making a point or explaining something. Plus, it comes from Latin, so it will make you sound smart.
 
What does it mean?
 
With its roots in medieval Latin, grosso modo means ‘roughly speaking’, ‘more or less’, or ‘in broad terms’. 
 
The benefit of using grosso modo is that it serves as kind of a disclaimer that allows the speaker to admit that they’re being a little bit less precise, while still presenting information or making an argument.
 
So grosso modo can allow you to give a quick explanation of something by making an approximation, as in:  Elle a répété grosso modo ce qu’il avait dit hier. (She repeated more or less what he had said yesterday).
 
When making an estimate, using grosso modo lets the listener know that the information you’re giving is in the ballpark, not exact. For example, C’est grosso modo un tiers de mon salaire. (That’s roughly a third of my salary).
 
And if you want to emphasize that you’re not going into minute detail on a subject, grosso modo is also appropriate: Je vais expliquer grosso modo comment ça fonctionne. (I’m going to explain in broad terms how it works).
 
Origin
 
Grosso modo comes from the medieval latin grossus modus, meaning ‘in a rough way’. It’s use has been established as early as the XIVth century, according to Reverso.
 
French is a romance language, and the use of latin expressions is quite common; examples include a contrario (on the contrary’), a priori (‘in principle’), and alea jacta est (‘the die is cast’) – and that’s just starting with the letter ‘A’. 
 
Since grosso modo comes from Latin and thus carries a scholarly connotation, it’s great for formal situations (unlike a much of the vocabulary we explain here), as well as informal ones. 
 
Alternatives
 
If French is the language of diplomacy, it’s not surprising that there are lots of ways to add nuance to one’s arguments. Simple French options for communicating the same ideas as grosso modo include environ and à peu près (‘around’/’about’), or sans entrer dans le détail (‘without going into detail’).
 
There is also grosso merdo and mosso grodo, which are just humorous ways of distorting the original phrase by blending in the word merde (assuming you know what that means already) or switching the first letters around.
 
 
 

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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Expression of the Day: Avoir l’estomac dans les talons

A sensation you might feel around midi after skipping your morning croissant.

French Expression of the Day: Avoir l'estomac dans les talons

Why do I need to know avoir l’estomac dans les talons?

Because you might want to inform your friend waiting in the long restaurant line with you about just how hungry you actually are.

What does it mean?

Avoir l’estomac dans les talons usually pronounced ah-vwar leh-sto-mack dahn lay tah-lonn – literally means to have the stomach in the heels, but it really just means that you are extremely hungry. A British-English equivalent might be ‘my stomach thinks my throat’s been cut’.

As with saying ‘I’m starving’ you wouldn’t use this to talk about people who are genuinely at risk of starvation, it’s just a phrase to complain about being hungry and wanting something to eat.

The expression probably originated around the end of the 19th century, and there are a couple of different ideas about how it came to be.

The first is that it’s intended to paint a picture of your stomach narrowing so much that it goes all the way down to your heels. The second idea proposes that since ‘les talons’ (heels) is a homonym with ‘l’étalon’ (stallion), the phrase might actually be referring to horse meat. You might be so hungry that the only thing that could possibly satiate your empty stomach is a hearty portion of horse meat.

Finally, there’s simply the idea that a person walking a long distance would have severe pain in his heels (or feet), and his hunger is so intense that it is as bad as the pain from walking a long distance.

Regardless of where it comes from, this expression is a sure-fire way to communicate your need for nourishment (or perhaps a nice helping of horse).

 Use it like this

Je ne peux pas attendre plus longtemps dans cette longue file, j’ai l’estomac dans les talons. – I cannot wait in this long line much longer, I’m starving.

Je n’ai pas mangé le déjeuner hier et à 17h, j’avais l’estomac dans les talons. Tout le monde dans le bureau pouvait entendre mon estomac faire du bruit ! – I skipped lunch yesterday and by 5pm I was starving! Everyone in the office could hear my stomach making noise.

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