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à la

In the manner or style of something or someone else. The phrase is a shortened form of the French à la mode de, meaning "in the manner of." The lead actor delivered hilarious slapstick à la The Three Stooges, but also had a grace and charm that was irresistible.
See also: la

all-a-mort

1. Struck dumb, insensible, or motionless with fear or confusion. His speech was full of such fire and anger that I was rendered all-a-mort for a few moments afterward.
2. In a dying or half-dead state; depressed or dejected, as in one who feels half dead. Possibly a corruption of "alamort," meaning the same, or a reference to a "mort," the sound from a hunter's horn to signal the death of an animal being hunted. I'm all-a-mort these past two days; I know not if I shall live beyond the week.

avant la lettre

Before something (a word, phrase, name, or specific entity, especially that which is anachronistic) was coined or created. From the French meaning "before the letter." So-called "hipsters" have always existed avant la lettre, but it's only in the last few decades that we've attempted to create a label for them.
See also: avant, la

crème de la crème

Of a person or a thing, the very best of a similar group or type. Literally translated from French as "cream of the cream." This car is the crème de la crème of luxury vehicles. Janet is the crème de la crème of photographers.
See also: crème, DE, la

à la carte

Available to be purchased individually instead of bundled with other items. Most often describes items on a menu that are not part of a main dish. I wasn't very hungry, so I opted to buy a few side items à la carte instead of a full meal.
See also: carte, la

à la mode

1. Served with ice cream. My favorite dessert is apple pie à la mode.
2. Very fashionable. Big shoulder pads were à la mode in the 1980s, but most people now would not dare to wear them.
See also: la, mode

c'est la vie

Oh well. This French phrase, meaning "that's life," indicates resignation and acceptance of something that one dislikes but cannot change. I know you're annoyed to have gotten another parking ticket, but c'est la vie. I had hoped to get home early enough to cook dinner, but that didn't happen, so we ordered pizza instead—c'est la vie.
See also: la, vie

plus ça change (plus c'est la même chose)

From French, meaning "the more things change, the more they remain the same." In English, the phrase is used in reference to situations or problems that remain the same, even when people or things involved in them are different. We move into a fancy new office, and still, the server crashes all the time. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. Plus ça change, eh? Even with the so-called champion of the working man in office, it's still the wealthy elite getting all the tax breaks.
See also: ca, change, la, meme, plus

la-di-da

1. adjective Pretentiously snobbish or elitist. I'd rather not go to some la-di-da restaurant and get overpriced rabbit food. Let's just get pizza.
2. interjection A sarcastic and derisive phrase meant to mock what one perceives as pretentious or overly refined. Well, la-di-da, look at Mr. Fancy in his new suit. Wow, you were on student council? La-di-da!

cherchez la femme

A French phrase meaning "look for the woman," the idea being that when a man starts behaving strangely, it is often because he is attracted to or involved with a woman. The phrase is typically attributed to French author Alexandre Dumas père. Whenever Todd starts dressing better and being punctual, just cherchez la femme.
See also: femme, la

la-la land

1. A state of unrealistic and idealized fancy, beyond the realms of possibility. Sarah seems to be lost in la-la land these days. If Tom thinks he'll be able to live off his bad poetry, he's living in la-la land!
2. A slang nickname for Los Angeles (L.A.), California. Sometimes capitalized. She always had dreams of moving to La-La Land and becoming a famous actress.
See also: land

à la

Like, in the manner of, as in He hoped to break all records, à la Babe Ruth. This expression, an abbreviation of the French à la mode de (for "in the manner of"), has been used in English since the late 1500s.
See also: la

cream of the crop, the

The best or choicest of anything, as in The apples from this orchard are definitely the cream of the crop. The noun cream has been used to mean "the best" since the 16th century. The French equivalent of the present term, la crème de la crème ("the cream of the cream") was familiar in English by 1800.
See also: cream, of

la-la land

1. Los Angeles, California (often abbreviated L.A.). This expression pokes fun at the alleged eccentricities of the city's inhabitants. For example, What do you expect? Frederick has lived in la-la land for ten years and it has rubbed off on him . [Slang; c. 1980]
2. A state of being out of touch with reality, as in I don't know what's going on with Amy-she seems to be in la-la land. [Slang; c. 1980] Also see cloud-cuckoo land; never-never land.
See also: land

the ˌcrème de la ˈcrème

(from French, formal or humorous) the best people or things of their kind: This university takes only the crème de la crème of school leavers.Naturally, only the crème de la crème have been invited to the wedding.
See also: crème, DE, la

cream of the crop, the

The very best of all. Cream is, of course, the richest part of milk and rises to the top. It was transferred to mean the best of any collective entity by the seventeenth century. John Ray, for example, included “That’s the cream of the jest” in his collection of English proverbs (1678). The exact locution involving the best of the crop was no doubt adopted for its alliterative appeal. The French version, la crème de la crème, literally “the cream of the cream,” meaning the best of the best, was well known in English by 1800 or so and also is considered a cliché. It gained new impetus in Muriel Spark’s novel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, first made into a play, then a motion picture (1969), in which the schoolteacher-heroine assures her students that they will, under her tutelage, become the crème de la crème.
See also: cream, of

la-la land, in

Out of touch with reality. This slangy equivalent of never-never land dates from the 1980s. The New York Times stated (Jan. 10, 1992), “Stanford is a multicultural la-la land. . . . It’s not the real world.” Capitalized, La-La Land is a jocular nickname for Los Angeles, California, a term that also dates from the 1980s.

vive la différence

Hurray for the difference (between men and women). This jocular approval of diversity dates from the mid-twentieth century, at least for use by English-speaking individuals. The New York Times had it in an article on men and women jockeys in 1969: “The male riders . . . continue to bellow ‘Vive la Différence.’” It also has been extended to differences other than gender, as in the Manchester Guardian’s seeming truism (1964), “‘Vive la différence’ Tories are recognizably Tories, and Socialists are demonstrably Socialists.”
See also: difference, la, vive

cherchez la femme

This French phrase that translates as “look for a woman,” originated with the elder Alexandre Dumas in his novel The Mohicans of Paris. Its meaning is that unusual male behavior can often be traced to involvement with a female. For example, countless generations of adolescent boys who never paid attention to their wardrobe or personal grooming suddenly became interested in clothing fashions. They washed their face and combed their hair without being told to, and spent hours chatting on the telephone (now a computer or handheld device) with the classic teenage boy's dreamy/dopey look on their face. Their parents would regard the phenomenon with a knowing and bemused expression as they told each other, “cherchez la femme.”
See also: femme, la