You may know the feeling: you’re on holiday and you’ve been walking around sightseeing all day. You’re tired, you’re hungry, and need to stop to eat. So, you pop into a little restaurant, and you feel satisfied and re-energised. Restored. And it’s no surprise really, because that’s what a restaurant’s for.
Has it ever struck you as a funny word, restaurant? I remember that at some point as a child I had an epiphany: it doesn’t really look like it sounds! It’s close, but we don’t really pronounce the au in the middle, and we in fact pronounce the -ant at the end more like I believed the au should be pronounced. I never really thought about it too much, but occasionally it’d come to mind and annoy me a little. It just didn’t match with what I thought I knew about English pronunciation. Of course at some point I realised it was a French loanword, and let it off the hook. Only fair to let it be pronounced like a French word. I didn’t think much about it again until last week.
While in Brittany, and specifically in the old fortified part of the town of Saint-Malo (known as Intra Muros), I noticed a lot of signs on buildings that were being restored, many of which featured the word restauration. Which in that context is pretty clearly the French for restoration. But at some point I thought about the fact that in French, restauration can also roughly translate to dining or catering. I didn’t think much about it at first: the two words might simply be homographs (words that are spelled the same but have different meanings) and even homophones (words that sound the same). That’s not particularly unusual in most languages. Bear with me while I deal with this bear bare-handed, for example.
But then I had another epiphany: the words are the same! Because the same thing is happening in each use of the word: the building is being restored, and you’re being restored when you eat in a restaurant! Restauration! Restoration! A little research confirmed this: the French words restaurant and restauration, and the English restoration/to restore, are all derived from the Latin verb restaurare (repair, rebuild, return to a previous state). So a restaurant is pretty literally a place to go to restore yourself. A useful bit of motiviation the next time you’re debating with yourself about whether you should treat yourself to a nice meal in a fancy restaurant. Could you really deny yourself a chance to restore yourself to your former glory?