Et d’enfoncer le clou.
ay dah-faw-sail CLOO. Click below to hear this!
And he hammers the point home.
The syntax of this expression–that is, the word order–is a little unusual. It’s a fairly literary phrase, something you are more likely to read than to hear. Still, it’s useful to understand how to use this construction, because it appears in newspapers and magazines in particular.
Here’s how it works: You are reading an interview, let’s say, with President Obama. Or Chicken Little, it doesn’t matter. The reporter cites something the interviewee said: “The sky is falling,” for example.
New paragraph: Et d’enfoncer le clou. He hammers the point home, by saying something else related to the first point. “I have proof. I felt the sky land on my head. And I have a plan of action.” The reporter uses this expression as a transition to the next paragraph, which usually introduces another quotation to back up the first, insisting on the point.
Literally, this means And to pound in the nail. Just in case you wondered, the French word clou gave us the English word clove, as in the spice, which is called un clou de girofle (the name of the plant). It does look like a nail, after all. But be careful: a clove of garlic is une gousse d’ail (ewn goose DIE-yuh), because that looks more like a pod, such as a seed pod. And indeed, a vanilla bean is not un haricot, butune gousse de vanille.
Who knew where one little word could take us?
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