Monday, September 3, 2012

Pâte, pâté; meunier, meunière

I was recently in a store selling chocolate covered goodies labeled "pâte de fruits". I imagined the word pâte may have been an error, and that the goodies should have been labeled "pâté de fruits" because I didn't remember ever having seen the French word pâte.

However, given the pedigree of the store, I later had second thoughts, and suspected pâte was indeed correct. Checking the Larousse English / French dictionary app confirmed that suspicion:
  • la pâte: pastry
  • le pâté: paste (or even pâté, as adopted for use in English)

Interestingly, when looking up the French word for paste, depending on the context it can be translated as either of those:
  • pâte (substance - generally)
  • pâté (mashed meat, fish)

On the same visit, I had sole meunière at the affiliated restaurant. Although I think I once learned the meaning of meunier, I couldn't remember it, so I asked for the dish's description (in English). The sole would be covered in flour and then cooked, and I came to the conclusion (later verified in Larousse) that meunier (the masculine form of meunière) means miller (of flour).

Interestingly, the definition of meunière is not a female miller, but a miller's wife. That is a surprising difference from what I imagine is the more common pattern of:
  • le boucher (a [male] butcher)
  • la bouchère (a female butcher)

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