Good question. And I think it’s one I’ve answered here and there across different posts, if not all in one go. It’s a question I’ve been asking myself more often recently.
He’s a dark horse, isn’t he?
How would you describe the expression a dark horse to somebody who’d never heard it before? After thinking for a moment, you might say it’s a person of hidden depths or secret talents/opinions, someone who achieves something when no-one expected that they might. You might give an example of a quiet student in a language class who suddenly speaks confidently and fluently in an oral exam.
I mentioned yesterday that I wanted to write about English words which are used in French in a slightly different way to how we use them. And this morning I thought, as I’m still using an AZERTY keyboard, I might as well do that today.
I’ve already written about some English words that are used in French, but today I want to focus on three that are a strange combination of seeming logical yet slightly odd to an English speaker’s ear. I should also state that I’m not criticising or mocking French speakers for using these words. Their use makes enough sense for non-native speakers, and once a word enters another language it doesn’t have to follow the rules of its original language. Anyway, the three words are:
We all get into routines, often continuing with them long after we’ve realised any original context for them has disappeared. Teachers for some reason seem to be a little more prone to getting into bad habits than other people.
Isn’t that just the classic signifier or a stupid, or at least uneducated, person? How could they possibly confuse these two antonyms? And of course this mistake is especially ironic as it’s related to education and learning. However, if you’re the type of person who likes to make themselves feel smarter by noting how people make this mistake but you don’t, perhaps you need to rethink how wrong these people actually are.
This is something I often ask myself. And then, I look it up. When I get the answer I’m satisfied, and then I don’t think about it again. And then a few months later I ask the question again, and I can’t remember the answer. Partly because it’s not so important, I suppose. And partly because I struggle with 50/50, it’s-one-or-the-other style answers. Like what the difference between biennial and biannual is, which I’ve long struggled to remember (though I think I know it now, but I don’t want to google it in case I’m wrong: I couldn’t face such a setback).
Only, the difference between a tart and a pie isn’t so trivial to me. Because I enjoy baking occasionally. I’ve liked cooking for a long time, but there was always something stopping me from baking. Maybe it felt too difficult, or I was afraid I might fail, I don’t know. But I’ve made a few things now, and baking’s not so bad. It’s basically just cooking, but with more particular ingredients and techniques. And I’m pretty sure that I’ve made some things that could be either tarts or pies, and I want to know one which they are! In fact, at this very moment I have something in the oven (I checked to see if it was ready after the comma after cooking, three lines above) and I’m not even sure if it’s a pie, a tart, or a cake.
Well, I know it’s not a pie, because it just clearly isn’t one. And if you’d asked me to guess, I’d confidently call it a cake. The thing is though, the recipe calls it a tart, and I’m willing to defer to Mary Berry on this one. But I’m looking at it, and I still think it could be a cake. Rather than just google it again, only to forget it again later, I’m going to think about and try to figure out which is which, right before your eyes…