Posted by: lyonenglishnetwork | February 25, 2010

Alice in Wonderland

English uses a lot of phrasal verbs and words which are perhaps shorter than their longer, more elaborate French equivalents.

One of my students recently sent me this, from Alice in Wonderland:

Chapter Three : A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale

How are you getting on now, my dear ?’ it [The Dodo] continued, turning to Alice as it spoke.
‘As wet as ever,’ said Alice in a melancholy tone: ‘it doesn’t seem to dry me at all.’
‘In that case,’ said the Dodo solemnly, rising to its feet, ‘I move that the meeting adjourn, for the immediate adoption of more energetic remedies -‘
‘Speak english !’ said the Eaglet. ‘I don’t know the meaning of half those long words, and what’s more, I don’t believe you do either !’

Have you ever noticed how, French people for example, trying to explain something in English, often use longer words, the effect being that:

1. you feel inferior because you don’t understand them


2. you get to the end of the conversation and you still don’t know what they’ve been talking about

I’m sure it’s the same in many international business presentations, for example.

The result is that the audience either:

1. assume the person speaking is foreign (most likely)


2. think that the person speaking is “stuck-up” (and this you most certainly wouldn’t want to happen).

The effect of using “long words” in French is quite the opposite; but in English these kind of “long words” are not used to the same extent, generally.

Comments ?



  1. How I so know what you mean! I’m sitting in my chair reading your post and absolutely killing myself with laughter. I’ve been there.
    You could also add the taunting question : what, you don’t know this word? Oh let me see; Hey Pierre she doesn’t know what … means.
    And the conversation goes on this way for about ten minutes without anyone even bothering to explain the D… word! Hello, I’m still waiting!

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