Sunday, 15 December 2013

Dictionary of Foreign Words in English: A - H


après ski – the feeling of dissatisfaction after eating a low-fat yogurt

autobahn – a road which travels along itself


beau geste – an aesthetically pleasing joke

bête noir – an addiction to gambling


carpe diem – boasting about one’s new Dr Marten’s boots

cause célèbre – something which makes you famous

chic – a stylish Arab

cliché – black-and-red poster, usually found in University Halls of Residence

cognoscenti – a group of experts, usually at hating sport

cul-de-sac – enforced castration

cui bono? – literally “Who is bono?” (abbr. of “Who does Bono think he is – God? Right, let’s show him how unimportant he is by lower-casing his name, if you can call it a name.”)


danse macabre – any sort of physical movement in response to music

de facto – hard-of-hearing thespian who has problems finishing his wor(ds)

delerium tremens – one’s twenties

dramatis personae – a collection of vain, self-regarding idiots

dumkopf – a police-officer


eau de cologne – the most fragrant section of the River Rhine

en famille – lacking ceremony (or joy)

en route – lost

erratum (pl. errata) – a newspaper (pl. newspapers)

et al – an empty larder

eureka – someone who doesn’t stay long enough in the bath

ex cathedra – luxury flats with stained-glass windows

exeat – weekend on which boys whose parents live abroad discover the joys of abandonment


fatwa – a thinwa who has really let himself go

faux pas – when fighting in a civil war (e.g. adolescence) and your father is on the opposing side, he is said to be a faux pas

film noir – a film which leaves you completely in the dark, usually French

führer – a person who is always angry, usually German


garçon­ – reason for feeling suddenly panicky during Mass

gendarme – one who stands around all day smoking Gauloises and leaning on a machine gun

gravitas – someone whose BMI exceeds 30 is said to have gravitas


haiku – Japanese poetic form, popular amongst English primary school teachers, who little understand it.

halal – meat which comes from an animal killed in strict accordance with Muslim law, i.e. barbarically

haute cuisine – food which has come straight from the oven  

hoi polloi – The House of Commons

homo sapiens – a member of the early cabinet of Margaret Thatcher (a 20th Century witch)

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