05 December 2013


Thaw. Dégel. There you have two words that bear little resemblance to each other but mean the same thing. The dictionary says 'thaw' was first used as a noun in English in the 15th century. It has its origins in German (douwen), Greek (takein), and even Latin (tabere). We are having a thaw today.

It's a good thing I saw this scene a couple of days ago. It's gone now.

'Thaw' is a very hard word, I think, for a French-speaking person to try to pronounce. First, there's that TH sound that doesn't exist in French. If you become self-conscious about it, you end up feeling kind of silly rubbing your tongue on your front teeth to say the initial consonant of 'thaw'. Is it TH as in 'then' or as in 'thin'? And then there's that vowel. Is it an A sound or an O sound? Some Americans would pronounce as if it were spelled 'thah'.

Old vines on a December day

Dégel is much easier. The first attested use in writing was in the year 1265, according to the French Robert dictionary. The pronunciation is obvious, I think — [day-ZHEL] — even for us anglophones. Of course, you have to say it with a French accent, cutting the first syllable short (no diphthong) and pronouncing the final L completely, not just partially as in 'bell' or 'tell'. The ZH sound is the one we have in the middle of words like 'pleasure' and 'measure'. It's also the consonant of the first person singular pronoun je in French. I don't think we have any words in English that start with that ZH sound.

Frost and feuilles mortes

Okay, I got carried away. The fact is that the temperature this morning is above freezing for the first time in a few days. It's cloudy instead of foggy, and that's why we've had a thaw. No more freezing fog. We haven't seen the sun much this week, but today we probably won't see it at all. It's a trade-off. Clouds and a thaw, or a hint of sunshine through the freezing fog. I'm not sure I'd want to choose. I don't get to choose, anyway.


  1. Those old vines are fabulous.

  2. I love the first picture of the hoar-frost. Now there's a word...

  3. Bonjour, Ken. Tes photos m'ont fait pensé au poème, "Première gelée" de Jean Richepin.
    Les hivers de jadis n'étaient pas toujours très rigolos.
    Première gelée
    (Heureusement, grâce au "Bûcheron des Bouleaux", vous avez pas mal de bois...soigneusement empilés).

  4. Bonjour Dean, oui, le bûcheron a bien fait son bouleau... euh, boulot... cette année. Nous n'aurons pas froid aux Bouleaux en 2014.

  5. Thanks, Ken. I really love reading those little tidbits about the origin of words and/or comparisons between English and French - neither of which is my first language, but I love both.

  6. Sorry, very much enjoyed your pictures too, as usual!

  7. I like those gnarly old vines.


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