Today’s entry and original illustration are by guest blogger Karan Hiremath, a student in my AP French class. Merci, Karan!
The French are universally well known for their conversational nature. While they may sometimes come across as being confrontational, they actually live for the fascinating conversations in a corner café. Over a cup of coffee, they can discuss a wide variety of topics from the latest misadventures of politicians to the merits of specific authors.
After a long 3 to 4 hour conversation about Nicolas Sarkozy’s extremely public sex life, it often becomes another topic of interest to attempt to sum up all the topics discussed by creating a resolute, final overarching statement which, in essence, serves to sum up the discussed topics. French philosophers are similarly notorious for creating these thematic statements with the purpose of summarizing topics as varied as love, beauty, and not surprisingly, the beautiful language the French speak.
In my journey to learn how to speak French just as the French would, the ability to summarize just as the French would has become crucial. In order to make these types of statements, we need one French phrase which serves the purpose of summarizing an argument.
The French origins for this phrase, en somme (ehn sohm), is the same as the origins of the English word “summary”, math! Yes, this is one of the few times in language where the origins of a word are in mathematics. Somme is the French word for “sum” and for those of you who do not, or prefer not to, remember math, the sum is the combination of many numbers into one number. Just like the sum, en somme attempts to combine many topics into one, overarching sentence.
En somme, the phrase en somme is extremely useful for summarizing.