Monday, December 11, 2006

The Daily Hump: Boulevard

When people think of boulevards they generally think of those broad streets that crisscross Paris. We Americans, perhaps in a feeble attempt to romanticize our nascent suburbs, stole the name in the late 1920's to refer to any sort of wide, multi-laned thoroughfares. I grew up on one of these American boulevards.

The French most likely didn't invent the word boulevard on purpose. Just as there are hundreds of French words we English-speakers regularly mangle beyond comprehension, the French aren't always so great at enunciating foreign words either. Boulevard is a prime example; it's likely the result of the Old French's garbled attempt to adopt the Middle Dutch bolwerc (literally: plank + work), which successfully survived the transformation into English as bulwark. In Modern English a bulwark is the wall of a fortification, but the Old French bollevart likely referred to the flat promenade which ran along the top of a demolished city wall.

Tomorrow: Were ramparts really constructed from parts of rams?
Hint: No.

Boulevard [OED]
Bulwark [AHD]
Boulevard [Online Etymology Dictionary]

Labels: , ,

:: posted by David, 8:33 AM


Add a comment