Using foreign phrases can be beneficial to your manuscript, not only because they add flair, but because sometimes they just sound better or more aptly fit certain situations in your novel. Not to mention that there are actually foreign terms for which there are no English words. Kummerspeck, for example, is German for the excess weight gained from emotional overeating. Literally translated, it’s grief bacon. What a great word, right?
So it’s definitely fun to add a little je ne sais quoi to your novel, but it’s also imperative that these words and phrases are spelled correctly and used properly.
Here are some of the foreign phrases we’ve seen misspelled or misused in our journeys as editors:
Per se – misspelled as per say: Latin for “by, of, or in itself,” we tend to use this phrase to mean intrinsically. This is, by far, the most often misspelled phrase I come across.
Chaise longue – misspelled as chaise lounge: This is a common misspelling due to the general misuse of the word lounger to describe a long chair that one can rest one’s legs upon. Technically, a lounger is one who lounges. What one lounges upon is a chaise longue. In French, chaise longue literally means long chair.
Segue – misspelled as segway: Italian for “there follows,” this term is most often used to identify something that bridges or forms a transition from one item to the next.
A cappella – misspelled as acappella: Italian for “of the chapel/in the style of the chapel,” a cappella is without instrumental music. It is always two words. Like a lot. And a little.
Tchotchke – misspelled as chotchkey: Tchotchke is Yiddish and means bauble or trinket. Yes, the spelling is about as far away from phonetic as possible, but there you have it. Chotchkey is the most prevalent misspelling I’ve seen.
Espresso – misspelled as expresso: There is no X in espresso. No X when you say it; no X when you spell it. Ever.
Voilà – misspelled as viola: I cannot count how many times I have seen this misspelling. Voilà is a French term that is actually a contraction of vois là—literally see there. A general French-to-English translation is there is, however, it is used in English more often as an interjection of satisfaction or surprise when something appears or turns out the way it was intended to.
Déjà vu – misspelled as deja view: Literally translated as “already seen” in French, Déjà vu is the sense that what you’re experiencing has happened to you before or a familiarity with something you have no reason to be familiar with. Yes, the accents over the E and the A are a required part of the spelling. And yes, it’s vu, not view.
Stay tuned to next week for part two of Misspelled and Misused Foreign Phrases.