French Friday #14: Faux Pas

This week's French word

by:  Mademoiselle Love

Faux Pas

pronounced:    ˌfoʊˈpɑ 

Literally -  false step or misstep
Figuratively - a mistake

Today, when I picked up my iced rocket fuel from my favorite coffee shop, Sweetleaf, I didn't have any leftover cash to leave a tip, and I thought to myself, that is a faux pas. Speaking of which...

If you have not used this expression you have doubtless heard it, but hopefully you have never committed a faux pas.

Again this expression is certainly French, but where does it come from?
Let’s deconstruct the term. We certainly all know the meaning of the adjective faux from “faux furor “faux finishes,so you have probably figured out that it means "fake" or "false”. And, in French, the word pas is simply a “step”.
So, in French, faux pas means a "false step" or "a misstep".
It is used in the literal sense when for example someone trips or falls, but it is also used figuratively to refer to a social blunder.
In English, we only use it figuratively. If we ask a woman if she is pregnant when she is not, this is certainly a faux pas. Then there is of course the dreaded “fashion faux pas”. A quick search on the Internet will give you infinite examples, such as this.
This term is ubiquitous in English, and the way we use it is fine, but do know where it comes from...

Pierre: Amy Lynn, chérie, doo you like my new outfeet? Eez eet sexee?

Amy Lynn: Oh no, Pierre, you have, like, totally made a faux pas.

Pierre: What? I have not tripped or fallen. What do you mean, chèrie?

Amy Lynn: I mean that I know you’re European, but you cannot wear socks with your sandals. That is an absolute “fashion faux pas”.

Pierre: Ok, whatever you say, Amy Lynn.

In the above conversation, Pierre was not familiar with the figurative sense of faux pas, and Amy Lynn was not familiar with the literal sense. Hopefully, they have sorted it by now, and I certainly hope Pierre has removed those socks!

Merci Beaucoup,
Mademoiselle Love
jenée here: it's very ironic that Mademoiselle Love brings up the matter of socks and sandals. This spring season socks have certainly worked their way into high fashion in some unusually odd places. I suppose after a winter with every girl wearing tights and leggings, it's only natural we are going to hold on to some version of this in warmer months - hence "the sock". On ladies, a printed sock and ballet flat is so fun. Then as scene at the Burberry Shows - a slouchy sock with a heeled sandal!!! I'm in love with it. It's a super girly look and a great way to keep pesky blisters away! Go for it ladies.

But men, beware, this trend has not quite made it to the menswear arena.

 Image source : NYTimes

The Origin of "La Tasse de Café", French for "the cup of coffee"
Is a morning radio show out of Ville Platte, Louisiana on KVPI-FM
My dad listens to it regularly to keep up with his Cajun French as he now doesn't have much opportunity to speak it in Louisiana where the language is disappearing. 
Since I'm from Cajun land in Louisiana, with a serious interest in fashion and my friend, the author, a Louisiana girl too, who is head over heels in love with everything French and everything coffee, it was only fitting we pay tribute to our roots and our new found loves.

Tune in to KVPI every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning at 8:45AM (NY time) for your Cajun French lesson and come back to the blog every Friday for more French lessons from Mademoiselle Love. We will discuss useful French  words or expressions for the fashionable girl. But to make it even more enjoyable, we will do it over a very fashionable cup of coffee.