All These Little French and American Words…

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Like most expats and immigrants who’ve left their motherland during adulthood, I navigate between my native and adoptive languages on a daily basis.

A language is alive and follows social changes;  it’s only normal to notice new slang words or trends. This is what catches my attention and sometimes takes me by surprise when I arrive in France. Since I’m fluent, it doesn’t take me long to get these new little words and expressions.

The French have actually made it much easier for me now that they sprinkle their conversations, billboards, and newspapers with countless English (most often American English) words and expressions.

In an interesting way, it is the other way around in the USA. Most French words that are part of the American language are somewhat old-fashioned and passé in France.

By the way, Passé is one of these French words that convey a different meaning in France.

So, for the month of April, I’ll try to play with these little French and American words and see what happens to them when they cross the Atlantic Ocean. I will also offer a French and English version of each of my posts. When the word is originally from France, I’ll start with the French version and vice versa.

I’m very much looking forward to your comments and suggestions. And support too!

Without further ado, welcome to Day One of the A to Z Challenge!




D’après le Merriam Webster dictionnaire ce mot français qui remonte au 16e siècle désigne un vêtement ou une pièce d’équipement utilisé pour une activité particulière ou dans un certain endroit.

Par exemple:

Les accoutrements d’un ordre religieux.

La chambre d’hôtel avait tous les accoutrements d’un hôtel de première classe.

En fait, je ne l’ai jamais personnellement entendu dans ces contextes aux Etats Unis, mais par contre je l’ai lu sur plusieurs menus de restaurants français et américains contemporains.

Accoutrements dans ce cas se réfère aux cornichons, câpres, marmelades, noix, voire fleurs, qui accompagnent un plateau de charcuteries, de fromages, ou encore de poissons fumés.


accoutrements boulud

En France, Accoutrement désigne un style d’habillement un peu étrange, voire ridicule.


According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary this French word that dates from the 16th century describes clothing or equipment used for a certain activity or in a specific place.

For example:

The accoutrements of religious ritual.

The hotel room had all the accoutrements of a four star hotel.

I’ve never heard this word in such contexts in the USA, but I’ve read it on several contemporary restaurants’ menus, either French or French American.

In this case Accoutrements designates the pickles, capers, olives, nuts, marmalades, even flowers, that accompany an assortment of charcuterie, cheese, or still smoked fish.


Embed from Getty Images

In France, the word Accoutrement describes a weird, almost ridiculous way of dressing.


Do you know of another French or English word starting with the letter A that has a different meaning whether it’s used in France or the USA?

Connaissez-vous un autre mot français ou anglais commençant par la lettre A qui a un sens différent selon qu’il soit utilisé en France ou aux Etats Unis?

See you tomorrow for the letter B.


  1. Thankfully, I am not in any danger of misusing this word in either country. It sounds a little snooty for my, normally pedestrian tastes. I’m more likely to go with ‘stuff’. You’re off to a great start Evelyne.

    • You’re right! Snooty is the correct way to describe this word when used on a menu. Although I must say that these accoutrements were pretty yummy. Thank you so much for your visit, Dan.

  2. I have to agree with Dan — I don’t think I have ever used this word, although I have read it. I couldn’t even tell you in what context off the top of my head, but I agree that it might be considered “snooty.” I guess if I were writing about “accoutrements” I might use “frills” or “things that go with…” instead. Et je ne l’utilise jamais en français ! Great post! Looking forward to the rest 🙂 A-to-Z-er Jetgirl visiting via Forty, c’est Fantastique

    • When I read the word the first time on a menu, I thought it was funny because I know the French word and have always used it with the sense of weird clothing, with a touch of ridicule.
      I must say that letter A was a challenging one. It will be easier tomorrow and I hope to see you here again. I’ll check on you, too!

  3. Great post, Evelyne. Reminds me how we peppered Azerbaijani with Russian words :)Love the photos – mouth-watering!

    • I wouldn’t try to write about the Russian and Azerbaijani languages, Gulara, but I’m sure you know about mixing up words. Thank you, merci, for your support. See you!

  4. This is so fascinating! what a marvelous theme for the challenge! see you tomorrow. Gail at Making Life An Art

    • Glad you like it. In my writing I like to blend French and English. So after doing the idioms last year it was a challenge to find another theme that would still fit my goal.
      I just stopped by your blog and enjoyed it as well. Good luck!

  5. Accoutrement is certainly a difficult word to spell and now I’ve learned that I have been using it incorrectly.I thought it was something you added to an outfit to give it a bit more flair.
    Thanks for the language lesson!

    • In English or French it is a weird word, for sure, but I had to find one for the letter A. 😊
      It’s possible that you’re right about your interpretation with its English meaning. Not in French. And that’s what I’ll try to illustrate for 25 or so more days. Wish me luck! Thank you anyway for visiting me. Cheers!

  6. I always have used the word both ways and I think most people (if they know the word at all) have no problems. Close enough. It’s one of those words I never spell correctly, so I only use it when I talk, never when I write 🙂

    • Your English knowledge is excellent, so I can understand that you knew about this word. Honestly I had no idea it was used in the USA until I saw it on a few recent menus. In France I only used it with this slight mocking touch when someone would show up dressed in a weird way. I’m glad we can learn from each other. Hope to see again in April.

  7. It’s not a word I’d use in everyday conversation Evelyne, but I am very familiar with it in the way you describe its use in English – I take it to mean all of the paraphernalia that accompanies something.

  8. Sisyphus47 says:

    Une “entrée en matière” excellente! 🙂

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