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Wagner’s rigid methodology—memorize and repeat—made little headway against a pupil whom Babet had already described as an esprit gauche and who asked embarrassing questions: Why were great men of antiquity such as Marcus Aurelius eternally damned because they had not known of Christ’s salvation and therefore could not have been redeemed?

Could anyone explain what esprit gauche means? I guess it is French. Does most native speakers understand the phrase?

Thanks!

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iclearwaterDoes Do most native speakers understand the phrase?

No. Absolutely not.

iclearwaterI guess it is French.

Yes, it is.

iclearwateran esprit gauche

a foolish mind; a graceless mind

I imagine it amounts to 'a simpleton' or possibly 'humorless' or 'dull'. In any case, 'not very bright'.

CJ

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Thank you for your help.

This book is in English, but why didn't the author make any note for the French prhase? He didn't suppose most of his readers would understand French, did he? The author is Robert K. Massie, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian and biographer, according to Wikipeda


Does the author say Babet disapproved her pupil being foolish? If so, it seems that doesn't fit the context. The pupil seemed to liked Babet.


The influence of her governess, Elizabeth (Babet) Cardel, was critical at this time in Sophia’s life. Babet, a Huguenot Frenchwoman who found Protestant Germany safer and more congenial than Catholic France, was entrusted with overseeing Sophia’s education. Babet quickly understood that her pupil’s frequent belligerence arose out of loneliness and a craving for encouragement and warmth. Babet provided these things. She also began to give Sophia what became her permanent love of the French language, with all its possibilities for logic, subtlety, wit, and liveliness in writing and conversation.

iclearwaterDoes the author say Babet disapproved her pupil being foolish? If so, it seems that doesn't fit the context.

That's the same problem I had when I read the first passage. Something about esprit gauche did not fit the context. Perhaps the intended meaning is closer to 'disturbed mind' as it seems from your additional quoted excerpt that Sophia was somewhat damaged psychologically.

I can't say for certain that even a native speaker of French would be able to give us a definitive translation of the term as it is used in that book.

iclearwaterThis book is in English, but why didn't the author make any note for the French prhase? He didn't suppose most of his readers would understand French, did he?

By including highly unusual turns of phrase and little-known foreign expressions, authors win prizes. Emotion: smile That's about all I have to say about this.

CJ

Read the source of the quote and all will be clear. Robert Massie's Catherine the Great - Portrait of a woman pt 1 ch 1

Dee Dee

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