Le Linge et la lingerie
luh laa zhay lah laa-zhree. Click below to hear this.
Linens and linens!
It’s okay, you can keep reading this. It’s not going to be naughty, unless you consider an offense against the French language to be naughty. But it may surprise you a little!
Le linge is linen–not the fabric, which is le lin, but articles made of it–including items that were once commonly made of linen but no longer are. That could be anything from le linge de table (table linens) (even if they’re polyester-cotton) to dresses (even if they’re jersey knit). And le linge de corps is an old-fashioned word for underwear.
That’s because un lave-linge is a washing machine, and Je fais le linge means I’m doing the wash.
And la lingerie? That’s the more modern word for underwear. The word has a fancy sound to it, so that’s how department stores call the undies department, in English as well as in French.
But I never ask for the lingerie department in English, because I can’t bring myself to pronounce it the way Americans do. “Lon-jer-ray”? Please. That breaks every rule of French pronunciation. To me, it will always be “laa-zhuh-ree”. So if I need to buy underpants, I will say so, in so many words.