Yesterday, in French class, we learned that the English word picnic is from the word pique-nique in French, meaning “pick a trifle” or basically, eat appetizers. Somehow the meaning expanded over time to mean doing this outdoors. We also discovered that its root is in an old Etruscan word. What a surprise, because most of the time, when we look up words to see when they came into use and from where, there are startlingly recent dates, like 1750 or even 1825. It makes me wonder what people said before that. Even the actual word piquenique only came into use in France in the 1700s. Hmmm.
One of our teacher’s (and my) favorite things is seeing where words come from and when. It expands the meaning of what you are saying to know the origins of your words. And to know that you can say certain things in one language and not another. Or that certain relationships between things occur only because of how a particular language relates them and those relationships do not occur in a language that doesn’t relate them. It explains the reality of the senses and how, oftentimes, words aren’t sufficient.
I love my French class. I can walk to it from my house and it is held in a cafe of course. It is meandering and connected, and while we learn French, we don’t have to study for tests or arrive with homework in hand. It is much more French than that; it is more about camaraderie. We can even skip a class or come late and no one minds, in fact we say “bonjour!” when someone arrives an hour late as if it were normal. Therefore, we are actually learning French and we are also learning a lot more than that.