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  1. #1
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    Default Tips about French

    I speak French. I used to teach it.

    I know some people don't care much for foreign languages, and some don't care for details of language, such as spelling, grammar, etc. Many English speakers seem to be resolutely monolingual, and proud of it, alas!

    I don't mean to be a stickler, but French looks and sounds ever so much nicer when it's done right... and the French really care about doing things right (especially their language), so...

    Please remember that all nouns in French (as in most European languages other than English) have grammatical gender; some nouns are masculine, and some are feminine. All nouns in French, even the names of inanimate objects, have grammatical gender, i. e., they are either masculine or feminine. In French, adjectives that modify nouns must match those nouns for number and gender. Masculine nouns must be used with the masculine forms of adjectives, feminine nouns, with the feminine forms of adjectives. Singular forms of adjectives are used with singular nouns, and plural forms of adjectives with plural nouns. There are four forms of most adjectives, the masculine singular, the feminine singular, the masculine plural, and the feminine plural.

    Please observe:

    Un lycée grand (masc. sing.), a big high school
    Des lycées grands (masc. plural), big high schools
    Une table grande (fem. sing.), a big table
    Des tables grandes (fem, plur.), big tables

    French perfume names always follow this rule:

    Bois Noir (masc.): the noun bois, "wood" is masculine in French; the masculine form of the adjective noir, "black" has no final "e." ( As in film noir.)
    Nuit Noire (fem.): the noun nuit, "night" is feminine in French, hence the "e" on the end of Noire. The form noire, with the feminine ending "e", is used only with feminine singular nouns.

    Daim means "suede" and the noun is masculine; the adjective "blond" is blond for masculine nouns and blonde for feminine nouns. Since Daim is masculine, the correct form is Daim Blond (no feminine "e" on the end of "blond"). Hence the form Daim Blond is the only form that is grammatically possible in French; Daim Blonde is grammatically impossible in French.

    Sometimes there is no difference in pronunciation between masculine and feminine forms of adjectives; sometimes the form is the same in spelling, too. And the singular and plural forms of adjectives are generally pronounced the same, since the plural ending "-s" in French is written but not pronounced.

    So, please, guys, when you write the names of perfumes and other fragrances in French, check the spelling. A good way to do this is to look at the box or bottle, or do a quick check in the Basenotes Directory (though there are a few typos there, too).

    You don't need to pretend that you know French if you don't, but since you respect the art of French perfumery, just show some respect for the language, too... please!
    Last edited by JaimeB; 25th November 2007 at 07:08 AM.
    Yr good bud,

    JaimeB

    "Why spend life seeking that which does not satisfy? Why remain a slave, when freedom waits? Let your life shine; illumine the world with your truth!"

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    Fiat justitia ruat cælum.

    Let justice be done, even if the sky should fall.

    Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus

    Qui nihil potest sperare, desperet nihil.
    Let him who can hope for nothing despair of nothing.

    Male irato ferrum committitur.
    It is an evil thing to arm an angry man.
    —Seneca

  2. #2

    narcus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips about French

    Merci Jaime !

    Now, what's the rule behind Noir Epices?

    yours truly

    Tabac Blond & Eau Noire


    'Il mondo dei profumi è un universo senza limiti: una fraganza puo rievocare sensazioni, luoghi, persone o ancora condurre in uno spazio di nuove dimensioni emozionali' L. V.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Tips about French

    Quote Originally Posted by JaimeB View Post
    You don't need to pretend that you know French if you don't
    'Well, when you're from Pittsburgh, you have to do something.'

    - Auntie Mame

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0051383/quotes
    Last edited by Pieter; 25th November 2007 at 07:40 AM.
    Lovesick the wind that carries it

  4. #4

    Default Re: Tips about French

    ...

    oops sorry, wrong thread.
    Last edited by Indie_Guy; 25th November 2007 at 12:55 PM.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Tips about French

    Quote Originally Posted by JaimeB View Post

    You don't need to pretend that you know French if you don't, but since you respect the art of French perfumery, just show some respect for the language, too... please!
    “Mon Dieu”

    -Le Scentimus

  6. #6

    Default Re: Tips about French

    Quote Originally Posted by JaimeB View Post

    You don't need to pretend that you know French if you don't, but since you respect the art of French perfumery, just show some respect for the language, too... please!
    But dude, you know, lots of Americans like don't even respect they're own language
    My Wardrobe
    II est de forts parfums pour qui toute matière/Est poreuse. On dirait qu'ils pénètrent le verre.

  7. #7

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    Default Re: Tips about French

    thanks, nice informative post.
    I am a lover of languages.
    mc

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Tips about French

    Quote Originally Posted by narcus View Post
    Merci Jaime !

    Now, what's the rule behind Noir Epices?

    yours truly

    Tabac Blond & Eau Noire


    I think in Noir Épices, Noir is a noun... peut-être.
    --------------------------------------
    Quote Originally Posted by the_good_life View Post
    But dude, you know, lots of Americans like don't even respect they're own language
    Ain't it the truth!
    Last edited by JaimeB; 25th November 2007 at 05:09 PM. Reason: Automerged Doublepost
    Yr good bud,

    JaimeB

    "Why spend life seeking that which does not satisfy? Why remain a slave, when freedom waits? Let your life shine; illumine the world with your truth!"

    My Wardrobe
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    Fiat justitia ruat cælum.

    Let justice be done, even if the sky should fall.

    Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus

    Qui nihil potest sperare, desperet nihil.
    Let him who can hope for nothing despair of nothing.

    Male irato ferrum committitur.
    It is an evil thing to arm an angry man.
    —Seneca

  9. #9
    beachroses's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips about French

    Quote Originally Posted by Pieter View Post
    'Well, when you're from Pittsburgh, you have to do something.'

    - Auntie Mame

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0051383/quotes

    lol!

    Thanks so much for the lesson. I took French in high school, but it's been a while. I do try to look things up, but may make mistakes and it's hard to remember which noun is feminine or masculine, because it usually makes no sense. Neither does the variant spelling of words in the English language, in many cases. I know you mean well, but I have found in my travels that there are ignorant people everywhere, not just in America, and I'm not just referring to the languages they don't speak.

    This is an international group full of many intelligent and enjoyable people, that is why I love your company so much. I have a lot to learn and should take the time to brush up on my French. I do want to be correct and found your tips helpful. I'd like to learn Italian, too, since I have more of an opportunity to converse in that language than some others and my sister is married to a Sicilian.
    Last edited by beachroses; 25th November 2007 at 05:59 PM.

  10. #10

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    Default Re: Tips about French

    Quote Originally Posted by the_good_life View Post
    But dude, you know, lots of Americans like don't even respect they're own language
    This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: "Most people would benefit greatly from learning a first language." - Timothy Winter
    You are not your perfume.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Tips about French

    Quote Originally Posted by the_good_life View Post
    But dude, you know, lots of Americans like don't even respect they're own language

    Please tell me this is an inside joke.

    there THEIR they're

  12. #12
    beachroses's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips about French

    On the internet, I try not to get anal about people's spelling unless it's some stinkin' shill. Mistakes are easy to make. But I think the point about fragrance names was well taken, especially here. When in doubt, look it up.

    Still trying to figure out why suede is masculine... maybe it's because the female cows are used for milk and the steers for meat and hides? I guess it would make sense, if you stop to think about it.
    Last edited by beachroses; 25th November 2007 at 07:00 PM.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Tips about French

    Quote Originally Posted by Nicolas V View Post
    This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: "Most people would benefit greatly from learning a first language." - Timothy Winter
    That's one of the best quotes I've seen in a very long time. Is that Timothy Winter of Cambridge University?

    I don't tend to get too twisted over misspellings unless they're rampant and the author is writing in his "first language".
    Last edited by Snafoo; 25th November 2007 at 08:13 PM.
    Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts. Daniel Moynihan

  14. #14

    narcus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips about French

    Quote Originally Posted by beachroses View Post
    Still trying to figure out why suede is masculine... maybe it's because the female cows are used for milk and the steers for meat and hides?
    Sorry, that would be rather wasteful . Although suede is now made from cowhide mostly, 'daim' actually means
    certain forest animals, like deer, which have the softest hides you can get for clothing. It's 'le daim' (masculin),
    subdived in mâles and femelles.

    Back to Noir Épices - is that not black spices then, as in my Indian chicken, Jaime?
    I love that perfume, but I find it very bright, not black at all ! (le) 'noir' as a noun is quite possible.
    But then the combination doesn't make sense, unless this is a quote from ancient scripts.
    Last edited by narcus; 25th November 2007 at 08:50 PM.
    'Il mondo dei profumi è un universo senza limiti: una fraganza puo rievocare sensazioni, luoghi, persone o ancora condurre in uno spazio di nuove dimensioni emozionali' L. V.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Tips about French

    Quote Originally Posted by narcus View Post
    Sorry, that would be rather wasteful . Although suede is now made from cowhide mostly, 'daim' actually means
    certain forest animals, like deer, which have the softest hides you can get for clothing. It's 'le daim' (masculin),
    subdived in mâles and femelles.

    Back to Noir Épices - is that not black spices then, as in my Indian chicken, Jaime?
    I love that perfume, but I find it very bright, not black at all ! (le) 'noir' as a noun is quite possible.
    But then the combination doesn't make sense, unless this is a quote from ancient scripts.
    I suppose you could take Noir Épices as a poetic rendering of "Épices en Noir" (spices in black), for example.

    It is true what you say about "daim" meaning deer in general, or it can refer specifically to the male. The word "cerf" in French also means deer or other similar animals, such as elk, wapiti, and so on; the word can also mean the male of the species. In English we sometimes refer to animal skins made into clothing as "buckskin." Of course, in English, "buck" refers specifically to the males of species
    such as deer, elk, or moose (a male is also called "stag" or "hart"), the female being called a "doe" (also "hind"), which is "daine" or "biche" in French. The Gobin Daudé fragrance Biche dans l'Absinthe would be "the doe in the wormwood," I suppose.

    Also, a curious fact: in French, the specific word for elk is "élan," a word which also has other meanings. The most familiar to English speakers is
    "energy, spirit." That is an extension of the more basic meaning "spring" or "bound", or "leap," from the verb s'élancer, "to leap." Perhaps the concept recalls elk because they often do just that.

    Oh, well, all the things you didn't want or need to know...

    --------------------------------------
    Quote Originally Posted by beachroses View Post
    Still trying to figure out why suede is masculine... maybe it's because the female cows are used for milk and the steers for meat and hides? I guess it would make sense, if you stop to think about it.
    As far as I know, there's no reason behind the gender of nouns. Sometimes they happen to refer to male or female beings, and then they fall into the appropriate category; for inanimates, of course, this can't be the reason. In Romance languages, I think it has more to do with the original Latin gender of the nouns, though some nouns shift genders along the way from Latin into French, Spanish, Italian, etc. It may be related to the form of the word (how they ended in Latin, whether in -us, -a, or -um); but there are also exceptions to this generalization. We may be putting the cart before the horse in making that analysis. A case of chicken or egg coming first? In Latin, another theory propounds that it may have been related to the noun-class, or declension, the word belonged to. Almost all first declension nouns are feminine; most second declension nouns are masculine, with a few neuters. The third declensions are mixed genders. Many fourth and fifth declensions are feminine or neuter. Go figure!

    In language, I often tell my students, the best question is not "Why do you say...?" but "How do you say...?"

    An ironic fact: in many cases, the gender of the names of the "private parts" are reversed in gender, the male parts being feminine in grammatical gender, and the female parts belonging to the masculine... grammatical gender, that is...

    Oh, damn! This is a losing game, isn't it?
    Last edited by JaimeB; 26th November 2007 at 05:00 AM. Reason: Automerged Doublepost
    Yr good bud,

    JaimeB

    "Why spend life seeking that which does not satisfy? Why remain a slave, when freedom waits? Let your life shine; illumine the world with your truth!"

    My Wardrobe
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    Fiat justitia ruat cælum.

    Let justice be done, even if the sky should fall.

    Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus

    Qui nihil potest sperare, desperet nihil.
    Let him who can hope for nothing despair of nothing.

    Male irato ferrum committitur.
    It is an evil thing to arm an angry man.
    —Seneca

  16. #16

    Default Re: Tips about French

    I love Eau de Toilette...
    Are you not entertained??? Is this not why you are here??

  17. #17

    narcus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips about French

    Quote Originally Posted by knightowl View Post
    I love Eau de Toilette...
    Yeah!! Let's get started on the 100 meanings of toilette in French and other languages...
    Quote Originally Posted by JaimeB
    Oh, well, all the things you didn't want or need to know...
    Very enlightening, Jaime – thanks for élan ! I admit to having taken a shortcut. Park, fountains and chateau is all that’s left from the royal splendor of Versailles. le daim (dama, in C. von Linné’s latin) and other targets of the royal hunts live in the zoo now.
    Quote Originally Posted by beachroses
    Still trying to figure out why suede is masculine...
    Maybe this helps: for some time in history Swedish gloves were popular all over Europe because leather from elk and reindeer was used to make thosegants de suede, and the French word suede’ became synonymous for soft leather. Both, the elk, and le gant are masculine in several languages, and in some cases only Freud may have known why. Rudolph is a boy, as all of us know of course.
    Last edited by narcus; 26th November 2007 at 09:35 AM. Reason: Automerged Doublepost
    'Il mondo dei profumi è un universo senza limiti: una fraganza puo rievocare sensazioni, luoghi, persone o ancora condurre in uno spazio di nuove dimensioni emozionali' L. V.

  18. #18

    Default Re: Tips about French

    oh oh parbleu, mon ami Narcus!!!
    Les gants sont masculin...mdr!
    (mdr = mourir de rire, the french equal for lol)

  19. #19
    Mikey Q's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips about French

    Quote Originally Posted by beachroses View Post
    On the internet, I try not to get anal about people's spelling unless it's some stinkin' shill.


    Those stinkin' shills!:wave:

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Tips about French

    Quote Originally Posted by knightowl View Post
    I love Eau de Toilette...
    The word toilette comes from the word toile, "cloth;" this word derives in turn from the Latin word tela "cloth," derived from texo "I weave," as in "textile." BTW, the English word "towel" derives etymologically from the French word toile. (The modern French word for "towel" is serviette, which can also mean "napkin." A serviette de bain would be a bath towel; a serviette de table, a table napkin.)

    Toilette originally meant a small cloth, "-ette" being a diminutive suffix in French. (Yes, the feminine form, students of French, since toile is a feminine noun.) The small cloth was used for one's daily cleansing routine. Faire la toilette can still mean to wash up or otherwise clean oneself to prepare for the day. Another (one hopes) small cloth was used to wipe one's bottom after defecation (this is technically a torchon in French, mentioned more than once in the naughty narratives of Rabelais, the 16th-century author of Gargantua and Pantgruel). Nowadays, we have paper products. It is from this other notion of toilette that I suspect the word came to be applied to the more unsavory aspects of clean-up in the English expression "go to the toilet."

    In Britain, of course, "WC" is the common word for the place; colloquially, one also uses the word "loo." (From Waterloo, WC being an abbreviation of "water closet." Get it? Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.) A rather old-fashioned British equivalent of the American's "go to the toilet" is "spend a penny," probably referring to public pay-toilets in the days when everything was a lot cheaper. We shan't mention the far more basic "having a slash," often an outdoor activity sometimes done behind a convenient bush.

    Eau de toilette was used as part of one's daily sanitary preparations, hence the name. Among perfumers (as many Basenoters are likely to be aware), the term refers to an alcohol-and-water based fragrance of medium concentration.

    Some people use "toilet water" in English to mean the perfumer's eau de toilette (EdT to the initiated); whereas others may intend it to mean water from the commode, such as thirsty house dogs are reputed to drink. Blecch!
    Last edited by JaimeB; 26th November 2007 at 08:44 PM.
    Yr good bud,

    JaimeB

    "Why spend life seeking that which does not satisfy? Why remain a slave, when freedom waits? Let your life shine; illumine the world with your truth!"

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    Fiat justitia ruat cælum.

    Let justice be done, even if the sky should fall.

    Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus

    Qui nihil potest sperare, desperet nihil.
    Let him who can hope for nothing despair of nothing.

    Male irato ferrum committitur.
    It is an evil thing to arm an angry man.
    —Seneca

  21. #21
    beachroses's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips about French

    I remember my first bottle of fragrance was an orange blossom "toilet water" from Florida. My sister and I laughed a lot about it, but I was hesitant to use it, even though it smelled so good. I really wasn't sure what was in there, even though my mother tried to reassure me.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Tips about French

    Quote Originally Posted by beachroses View Post
    I remember my first bottle of fragrance was an orange blossom "toilet water" from Florida. My sister and I laughed a lot about it, but I was hesitant to use it, even though it smelled so good. I really wasn't sure what was in there, even though my mother tried to reassure me.
    ROTFLMAO!
    Yr good bud,

    JaimeB

    "Why spend life seeking that which does not satisfy? Why remain a slave, when freedom waits? Let your life shine; illumine the world with your truth!"

    My Wardrobe
    My Reviews

    Fiat justitia ruat cælum.

    Let justice be done, even if the sky should fall.

    Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus

    Qui nihil potest sperare, desperet nihil.
    Let him who can hope for nothing despair of nothing.

    Male irato ferrum committitur.
    It is an evil thing to arm an angry man.
    —Seneca

  23. #23
    Kyra's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips about French

    Could you address some fine points on capitalization?

    I’ve, par example, seen both Parfum d’Empire and Parfum D’Empire but almost always Parfums de Nicolai and not Parfums De Nicolai. Is the capital optional on a contraction?
    Sending BEMs scuttling back to Betelgeuse with my fierce fumage!
    http://community.basenotes.net/showthread.php?t=200749

  24. #24

    Default Re: Tips about French

    What's worse than a stinkin' shill? A stinkin' French shill that doesn't use fragrance

    Quote Originally Posted by Mikey Q View Post
    Those stinkin' shills!:wave:

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Tips about French

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyra View Post
    Could you address some fine points on capitalization?

    I’ve, par example, seen both Parfum d’Empire and Parfum D’Empire but almost always Parfums de Nicolai and not Parfums De Nicolai. Is the capital optional on a contraction?
    In names of products like these, it is not usual to capitalize the prepositions, just as in English book titles, for example.
    Yr good bud,

    JaimeB

    "Why spend life seeking that which does not satisfy? Why remain a slave, when freedom waits? Let your life shine; illumine the world with your truth!"

    My Wardrobe
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    Fiat justitia ruat cælum.

    Let justice be done, even if the sky should fall.

    Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus

    Qui nihil potest sperare, desperet nihil.
    Let him who can hope for nothing despair of nothing.

    Male irato ferrum committitur.
    It is an evil thing to arm an angry man.
    —Seneca

  26. #26

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    Default Re: Tips about French

    vraiment, you guys, I'm going to have to lie down after this --on my 'chaise lounge,' comme d'habitude. ;-)

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Tips about French

    Quote Originally Posted by grizzlesnort View Post
    vraiment, you guys, I'm going to have to lie down after this --on my 'chaise lounge,' comme d'habitude. ;-)
    chaise longue?
    Yr good bud,

    JaimeB

    "Why spend life seeking that which does not satisfy? Why remain a slave, when freedom waits? Let your life shine; illumine the world with your truth!"

    My Wardrobe
    My Reviews

    Fiat justitia ruat cælum.

    Let justice be done, even if the sky should fall.

    Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus

    Qui nihil potest sperare, desperet nihil.
    Let him who can hope for nothing despair of nothing.

    Male irato ferrum committitur.
    It is an evil thing to arm an angry man.
    —Seneca

  28. #28

    Default Re: Tips about French

    Quote Originally Posted by JaimeB View Post

    A rather old-fashioned British equivalent of the American's "go to the toilet" is "spend a penny," probably referring to public pay-toilets in the days when everything was a lot cheaper.
    This is not that old: it was very common in my mother's generation. And public toilets in England cost money until quite recently, though more than a penny nowadays.
    Last edited by Eluard; 27th November 2007 at 12:07 AM.
    There are people to whom the truth of language does not matter — they are known as liars.

  29. #29
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    Default Re: Tips about French

    Quote Originally Posted by Eluard View Post
    This is not that old: it was very common in my mother's generation. And public toilets in England cost money until quite recently, though more than a penny nowadays.
    Thanks for the update, Eluard. I've only heard the term on BBC television programs (excuse me, I mean "programmes" of course) aired here in America; it seemed always to be on the lips of older people. Small samples can always lead to mistaken conclusions... At least I was right about inflation, but that's an easy one to get right.
    Yr good bud,

    JaimeB

    "Why spend life seeking that which does not satisfy? Why remain a slave, when freedom waits? Let your life shine; illumine the world with your truth!"

    My Wardrobe
    My Reviews

    Fiat justitia ruat cælum.

    Let justice be done, even if the sky should fall.

    Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus

    Qui nihil potest sperare, desperet nihil.
    Let him who can hope for nothing despair of nothing.

    Male irato ferrum committitur.
    It is an evil thing to arm an angry man.
    —Seneca

  30. #30

    Default Re: Tips about French

    Quote Originally Posted by JaimeB View Post
    Thanks for the update, Eluard. I've only heard the term on BBC television programs (excuse me, I mean "programmes" of course) aired here in America; it seemed always to be on the lips of older people. Small samples can always lead to mistaken conclusions... At least I was right about inflation, but that's an easy one to get right.
    Yes, it was very common in the immediate post war generation, and it was an expression solely used by women, because it was mainly they who had to rent the stall. Very unfair, and I can remember my mother protesting about it bitterly.
    There are people to whom the truth of language does not matter — they are known as liars.

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