Poilu... and prickly! in the desert hills of northern Tunisia.

A next-to-the-last call to UK readers: We will be at the Barbican Centre this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday--all day! If you're in the area... look us up! (And it's not too late to get a free ticket to this event).

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Did you know that the French word for caterpillar ("la chenille") comes from the Latin word for "little dog"*? Talk about a colorful imagination! Makes you wonder whether those ancient wordsmiths weren't fond of absinthe*? For, just how many of us can see the resemblance between a leggy larva and man's best friend?

Let's have a look and judge (a bit more soberly than those Latin language lushes) for ourselves:
Leggy Larva... and Man's Best Friend

Leggy Chienne

One smacking similarity would be those accoutrements (here, "Dotty"* is sporting painted toenails and Braise (brez) wears her Halloween mask).

Another connection that we will make today, between a potential papillon* and a pretty pooch, is an inspirational one. Although dogs are often the "muse" for artists, a favorite subject to draw and to paint, here at French Word Central, we prefer your run-of-the-mill "underdog" as uber-muse: la chenille!
(More about this, in a minute... and no offense to Braise-The-Dog!).

And finally: fur! Note the "coat" on the subject in photo number two. Stay with me now... It would seem "hair" is the connection between a dog and a caterpillar. Ever seen a hairy caterpillar? Voilà, there you have it! That's all it took for those word winos of yesteryear, those "let's name a worm after a dog" intelligentsia, to connect the hairy dots. Whether or not they had "hair of the dog"* the next morning (after a wild night of wordsmithing) is anyone's guess.

Back to connecting the dots... and to our Dot (remember her?) in today's gallery. Mille mercis to the artists who submitted their renditions of our sweet (chauve*...) chenille. To see The Dot Vernissage, click here.

PS: I almost forgot to post today's word... and I swear the near-oubli* wasn't due to partying with the language lushes last night.

poilu(e) (pwa-loo) adjective

    : hairy

...and, in keeping with our WWI theme this week:

"un poilu": a soldier in the First World War (a.k.a. Tommy Atkins or Tommy). Read more about this term of endearment:

Do you know of any terms, expressions, or other meanings of today's word "poilu"? Thank you for sharing them with us in the comments box.

Audio File:
Listen to today's word and to this French expression:Download poilu.wav. Download poilu.mp3

"poilu comme un singe" = "hairy as a monkey"

Still with us? Why not read about Henry John "Harry" Patch : at 110-years-old he is "the last surviving British soldier to have fought in the trenches of the Western Front during the First World War, and one of just two trench combatants still alive." Don't miss this profile and read his moving remark, made at Flanders war cemetery:

...and, whatever you do, watch this video, in which the soft-spoken supercentenarian shares his thoughts about war and his aversion to it:


"little (female) dog" = "petite chienne" from the Latin "canicula"; absinthe = a liquor flavored with anis and herbs, such as wormwood. Some claim it has an hallucinatory effect; Dotty = a French caterpillar from Châteauneuf-du-Pape; le papillon (m) = butterfly; hair of the dog = refers to an alcoholic drink that one consumes, the day after getting "cuite" (or plastered), in an attempt to
diminish the effects of a hangover (also known as a good excuse for another drink early in the day!); chauve = bald; un oubli (m) = oversight

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Gifts & more ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language
365 Days in France Calendar 2009 (Picture-A-Day Wall Calendars)
SmartFrench Audio CDs Intermediate/Advanced

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety