Wednesday, September 2, 2015


I was browsing the French news this morning (definition of browsing: "understanding 5%") when I came across the delightful phrase -- only understandable to me because it was accompanied by a photograph of Venus Williams -- about Venus's pursuit of "le grand Chelem"

"Slam" in French is "chelem"? When did French start sounding like Yiddish? In fact, you ain't seen nothin' yet: An alternate spelling is schelem.

Better French students than I know that this is not the usual French word for "slam" (as in a door), which is more often claquement. Rather, chelem/schelem is a franglish mixup of the English "slam," mainly used in the context of sports and cards, and possibly was introduced by the American baseball term "grand slam." For good reason: grand claquement does doesn't quite have the same ring. (Although it does have some wonderful onomatopoeia going for it.)

Anyway, bonne chance, Venus! Chelem 'em!

More fun with French in NY Times bestseller, Flirting with French.

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