Friday, March 26, 2010

Fasting slowly

Having passed several road signs in France warning me of "vehicules lents" this week, it raised the question why the French use the word lent to mean slow when we use Lent to mean fast?

Lent, in the Easter sense, has been on my mind this week because I have well and truly fallen off the wagon as far as my Lenten pledge to give up cheese goes. But how could I resist the odd smidgin of Livarot or Pont L'Eveque in this country? It would be rude.

The problem is that one reason for giving up cheese was to try and lose weight and after the first 30 days I had managed to shed half a stone. I imagine when I return to England tonight that good work will have all been undone. But it was worth it. I will just have to extend Lent by an extra week or two.

As for the linguistic question, the period before Easter gets its name from the German "lenz", meaning long because that is the period when the days lengthen. Catholics still call the period quadragesima, or 40 days. Lent, as in the French adjective for slow, comes from the Latin "lentus", meaning the same although there is another "lentus" that means "supple", which I certainly don't feel after too much Livarot.

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