Via Crooked Timber, a comic-strip style overview of the rules of cricket [.pdf] — in French. Published, in fact, by the Fédération Française de Basketball - Softball & Cricket. Not only did I understand everything (wow!), including the very strange point about the defending team being the one that tries to destroy the wicket, but I even had a vocabulary- and phonology-related revelation: The word wicket is historically the same as the French noun guichet! In contemporary French, a guichet is a booth or a counter, for example the guichet of a metro station, where you can buy tickets from a real human being. Originaly it signified a small door or opening in a monumental door, a wall or a fortification.

The correspondence between /w/ in English and /g/ in French (always pronounced [g], thus the u after the g in guichet) is very well-known: it is the trace of a regular sound shift. Examples are war - guerre, Wales - (Pays des) Galles, wasp - guêpe (the accent mark indicates a lost /s/), William - Guillaume, warden - gardien, waffle - gaufre, and probably quite a few I can’t remember.

I’m also unclear about when this shift happened or indeed which came first. But to narrow it down a little, these are not French words absorbed by English, but some of the relatively rare words of Germanic origin in French. The TLFi entry for guichet indicates that it was already present in Old French and has a first cite from the early 12th century.


Votre serviteuse regarde du cricket. Et ne comprend rien.

I’ve retreated down the pub, to relax after a long day. There’s a TV set running, showing something called “the Ashes”. And of course, me being a total cricket moron, I don’t understand a bit of what’s going on. In the beginning it looked like England was winning “that little urn”, with “three wickets left”, but these three wickets take an awfully long time. Everybody’s dressed in white, so I can’t discern who’s on which side.

But I understand (most of) the English (except the comments about the players’ achievements). And I’m hearing a whole lot of unreduced thes. And just two minutes ago, one of the commentators said, very clearly, “for all intensive purposes”. I couldn’t help laughing out in delight (or amusement), drawing the looks of those who were actually watching the proceedings.

UPDATE: England has have won.