French word of the day: Pinard

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French word of the day: Pinard
French Word of the Day: Pinard

One of an array of French words for an archetypal French product


Why do I need to know pinard?

You know how native people of Arctic regions are said, erroneously, to have dozens of words for ‘snow’? This is one of several words that the French actually do have - appropriately enough - for wine.

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What does it mean?

Pinard – roughly pronounced pee-nar – is a slang term for wine, particularly red wine, that entered common usage in World War I, when French soldiers would frequently raise a glass to Saint Pinard, or père Pinard.

Etymologists, who worry about this sort of thing, aren’t sure exactly how the term originated - some suggest it derives from the pineau or pinard grape varieties; others suggest it heralds from the verb pinarder (pee-nar-day), which means to drink to excess; not to mention those who argue in favour of its links to 19th-century Burgundian vintner Jean Pinard - who was something of a celebrity in the 19th-century wine-making world.

Regardless of where it came from, it’s barracks slang for red wine that has escaped the parade ground into popular use. It’s earliest use can be traced back to 1886, but it really took off during World War I, when the poilu (‘the hairy’ - an informal term for infantry soldier) drank wine at the front.

READ ALSO ‘I broke my face’: How to say you’ve had too much to drink in French

Marshal Joffre - Commander-in-Chief of French forces on the Western Front from the start of World War I until the end of 1916 - is said to have recognised the efforts of “General Pinard” for upholding the morale of his troops.

Today, the word is used as slang for wine - more usually the stuff at the lower end of the market range, but it can be used for the posh stuff, too, if you’re feeling daring and the vineyard owner isn’t nearby.

And, if you’re even vaguely wondering whether there was an army term for white wine, it’s le casse-patte.

Use it like this

Les gars étaient là avec leur sacoche, la bouteille de pinard et le casse-croûte - The guys were there with their bags, the bottle of wine and the food



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