Il est un peu farouche.

Il est un peu farouche.

ee lay uh puh faa-ROOSH. Click below to hear this.

He has no social skills.

Years ago, in 1968, this was how my landlady told me about the man who was renting the room next door to mine. He was a bright, gentle math professor who was almost surely obsessive-compulsive, acutely shy, and deeply troubled by the ongoing strikes among the university students that repeatedly interrupted classes that year.

She wanted me to know that, while he was a little strange, he posed no danger. Farouche was the word she chose to convey this.

It sounds like the English word ferocious, and indeed they are related. Farouche also means wild, savage, undomesticated. But wild animals are generally described as féroce in French–animals that are dangerous–while farouche more often applies to people, or perhaps animals such as pets that are not properly trained: socially inept, but not dangerous.

It’s a nice word, useful, a relatively unprejudicial way to describe someone whose actions and appearance are a bit eccentric. It’s the sort of thing you would have said about those nineteenth-century composers with the wild hair. They were often lionized in their time. Their talent was appreciated, and their social behavior was welcomed because it broke the boredom of “polite society”. Not such a bad thing.

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

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