Tout De Suite

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Tout De Suite : Phrases


At once.



At once, or right away, is the literal translation of this French phrase. This is very often written incorrectly as tout suite. The English have never been comfortable with adopting French terms into English and, compared with Latin phrases say, there aren't as many as we might expect considering how close the two countries are geographically. This ambivalence, and the fact that most English can't actually speak French or even make a decent stab at pronouncing French terms, is the source of the attempts to poke fun at the French by deliberately mispronouncing those French phrases that have made it into English - in this case as toot sweet. This teasing dates back to the First World War. For example:

Arthur Empey, in Over the top, 1917 - "'Toots Sweet.' Tommy's French for 'hurry up', 'look smart'.

Punch, 1917 - Tommy (to inquisitive French children): "Nah, then, alley toot sweet, an' the tooter the sweeter."

The 1968 film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang included a song call Toot Sweets. This lead to the marketing of confectionery with the same name, in the form of sugar whistles.

The phrase excuse my French takes this a step further in implying that speaking French is inherently embarrassing. More recently, this phenomenon has been made fun of in the many comic mistranslations of French phrases put into the mouth of Del Boy (David Jason) in John Sullivan's comedy Only Fools and Horses. For example, mange tout - used by Del Boy to mean 'my pleasure' and creme de la menthe - 'the very best'.

In America of course the souring of governmental relations over the disagreement in policy regarding the second Gulf War was the root cause of a virtual boycott in the USA of all things French. Many people there adopted a distaste for even speaking the word french, which resulted in the renaming of french fries (which all right-minded people in any case know are called chips) as freedom fries.

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