Book Review and Giveaway: A Certain "Je Ne Sais Quoi": The Origin of Foreign Words Used in English (Ends 4/30) CLOSED

Thursday, April 15, 2010 Posted by Dina N

I am a book aficionado, and love mixing up some words and expressions from other languages - especially in my writing. Reading books has something to do with this habit, but also my forays into speaking French, Italian, and Spanish that date back to high school. There is something special in these words that have been crossing national boundaries and languages for years, decades, even centuries. They add a definite pizzazz, or - shall we say, a certain Je Ne Sais Quoi, to our daily communication.

Obviously, Reader's Digest edition of A Certain "Je Ne Sais Quoi": The Origin of Foreign Words Used in English by Chloe Rhodes is right up my alley. This entertaining and informative book lists a number of words that we encounter every day - from A Capella to Zeitgest. Many of these have taken such deep roots in our language that we'd be hard pressed to find a good synonym. Chloe Rhodes book is not a dictionary although it does list the definitions of these foreign words and provides examples of their use. What makes A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi fun and educational is the her explanation of the words origin and modern use. While I know the meaning of these words, their background was mostly new to me. Chloe Rhodes' writing style is fresh and amusing, and it makes for a very pleasant reading.

With the permission of her publicist, I am delighted to give you a little taste of Chloe Rhodes work.

A Certain "Je Ne Sais Quoi"
By Chloe Rhodes,
Author of A Certain "Je Ne Sais Quoi": The Origin of Foreign Words Used in English

Picture this scenario: You're having a tête-à-tête with an old friend from your alma mater, who is a wine aficionado. So you pick an al fresco table at a chic little café, and order from the a la carte menu. However, your companion won't stop exchanging double entendres with the woman in the sarong at the next table. So you're stuck listening to the klutz of a waiter droning on ad nauseam about the soup du jour. At that point, you're ready to say hasta la vista -- but you don't want to seem like a diva.

Try to say all that in "English." You probably wouldn't change a single word. How else would you describe such a scene if it weren't for the thousands of foreign words and phrases we've snuck into our conversations over the years? We all use them without a second thought. But how much do you really know about the origins of the borrowed words and phrases you use every day?

Did you know, for example, that when you place an order for apple pie a la mode, that you are using a phrase that dates back to the days of King Louis XIV? His court became such a standard of good taste that the British aristocracy wanted to do more than dress in French fashion; they wanted to use their phrase for it, too. In the seventeenth century the term was anglicized to become alamode -- a light silk used to make scarves. And at some point in small-town America, the combined flavors of cooked apple, sweet pastry, and cool, creamy vanilla represented the very latest in fashionable, cutting-edge gastronomy, giving the term its modern meaning of "with ice cream."

And there's hundreds of other examples from France: laissez faire, joie de vivre, fait accompli, faux pas, I could go on but you'd only become blasé. And with good reason; English speakers have been word collectors since the fifth century, when the dialects of Anglo-Saxon settlers, Celts, and Norse invaders were cobbled together to create Old English. When the Norman conquerors arrived in 1066 it must have seemed natural to steal some of their vocabulary, too. By the end of the thirteenth century, more than 10,000 French words were absorbed into English -- and we still use 75 percent of them today.

But we've done more than add a French lilt to our lingo. Those Normans also introduced us to Latin. In medicine, we have words like post-mortem and placebo, while in legal language, Latin phrases such as in camera and quid pro quo are still bounced around the courtroom. And others have crossed over into broader use; an agreement or contract signed in good faith is said to be bona fide. However, in everyday use, the phrase has become interchangeable with the word genuine and usually describes someone or something whose authenticity can be trusted.

More foreign phrases joined the fray during the marauding, seafaring days of our English-speaking ancestors, who filled their boats with strange Asian spices, exotic fabrics, and loads of new words for all the animals, garments and foods they had discovered.

Even ketchup, that favorite sidekick of French fries, is an import, starting life as a spicy pickled fish sauce in seventeenth-century China. The word is a Westernized version of the Malay word kichap, which came from koechiap, meaning fish brine. The sweet red version we love with began to take shape when American sailors added tomatoes, which are excellent for preventing scurvy. In 1876 John Heinz launched his infamous tomato ketchup and the rest, as they say, is history.

And there are stowaway words in your wardrobe as well as your pantry; your pajamas, dungarees, and even your bandanna have their origins on foreign shores. Bandanna comes from the Sanskrit word bandhana, meaning to tie, from the tie-dying technique used to decorate scarves and handkerchiefs in India. The anglicized "bandanna" was incorporated into the English language during the days of the British Raj, though they're now more popular with wrestlers and cowboys who want to give their look a certain panache.

And while the Brits went abroad to gather additions for their dictionary, in seventeenth-century North America, words were coming to the English language by the boatload. Soon words from Italy, Poland, German, and Eastern Europe were leaping off immigrant ships and landing in the American English lexicon. To uncover the backstory on some of these, from alter ego to zeitgeist, explore the pages of A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi -- The Origin of Foreign Words Used in English by Chloe Rhodes, published by Reader's Digest, and voilá! Soon you'll easily be able to schmooze with everyone at the next cocktail party without making a single faux pas.

© 2010 Chloe Rhodes, author of A Certain "Je Ne Sais Quoi": The Origin of Foreign Words Used in English


The Giveaway
One reader will win a copy of A Certain "Je Ne Sais Quoi": The Origin of Foreign Words Used in English!

To enter, please comment below with a foreign word that you've used in conversation recently.

You may do any and all of the following for extra chances to win:
  • follow me on twitter and tweet about this giveaway, feel free to copy and paste: "Win A Certain "Je Ne Sais Quoi": The Origin of Foreign Words Used in English! #Giveaway ends 4/30 @aitmama #win http://tinyurl.com/y4gkpol" – you may do this once a day;
  • go here for additional ways to get extra entries.
The deadline to enter is April 30, 2010, 11:59pm EST. A winner will be randomly selected and notified by e-mail. They will have 72 hours to get back to me, or alternates will be chosen.

Open to residents of U.S. and Canada only. No P.O. box addresses, please. The winner will receive the prize directly from FSB Associates. A review copy, book information and image were provided by the publisher. No compensation was provided for this post.

Disclosure / Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book without any obligation to write a positive review. The opinions expressed in this post are mine and may differ from yours.

154 comments:

  1. orionsmom said...

    A bientot!

    cyndicarroll@hotmail.com

  2. Tannie's Chatter said...

    Pretty easy - "Bonjour" ha ha ha!

    tanandjosh@telus.net

  3. Tannie's Chatter said...

    I follow you - @tannieschatter

    I Tweeted:

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  4. Tannie's Chatter said...

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  5. Tannie's Chatter said...

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  7. Tannie's Chatter said...

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  8. Tannie's Chatter said...

    I subscribe through e-mail

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  9. Nancy said...

    I am an e-mail subscriber.


    Nancy
    allibrary (at) aol (dot) com

  10. Nancy said...

    I follow your blog via Google Friend.

    Nancy
    allibrary (at) aol (dot) com

  11. Nancy said...

    A colleague and I were taking turns greeting each other in different languages this morning and I said "Hola"!


    Nancy
    allibrary (at) aol (dot) com

  12. edeliz said...

    Que sera, sera...

  13. edeliz said...

    I follow you on twitter.

  14. edeliz said...

    I twitted:

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  15. edeliz said...

    I follow you on Google Friends.

  16. Deb said...

    This is right up my alley!! I just love discovering the origins of phrases and words. Just yesterday I used "objets d'art" on my blog and today I used "fait accompli" when discussing business. Sometimes foreign phrases just give more depth to meaning.

  17. couponmom said...

    The foreign word that I have used probably could not be printed here, lol, but another one that I always use is "Je ne sais pas"

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  18. couponmom said...

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  19. Deb said...

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  20. couponmom said...

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  21. Deb said...

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  22. couponmom said...

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  23. couponmom said...

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  24. couponmom said...

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  25. Deb said...

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  26. Deb said...

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  27. Deb said...

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  28. Deb said...

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  29. Deb said...

    I"m a fan on facebook

  30. Anonymous said...

    I am a email subscriber.
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    twoofakind12@yahoo.com

  31. Anonymous said...

    I hope this is okay, but I called my terrible neighbor a wanker yesterday.
    debp
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  32. anthy said...

    I used "Moi?" in conversation recently! (Our whole family does that...we like to impersonate Miss Piggy. :-) )

    Thank you very much for the giveaway!

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  33. anthy said...

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  34. anthy said...

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  35. anthy said...

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  36. anthy said...

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  37. anthy said...

    I follow you on twitter, and tweet! http://twitter.com/my_twitraccount/status/12316000184
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  38. Jackie said...

    When talking to my daughter on AIM (she is at college), I sometimes start the conversation with "Bonjour"! Sounds like a great book...thanks for the review and giveaway!
    jackievillano at gmail dot com

  39. Marci J said...

    Bon appetit.
    june_spirit2628 at hotmail dot com

  40. Virginia C said...

    je ne regrette rien

    ("I regret nothing")

    I would absolutely adore to win this book!

    gcwhiskas at aol dot com

  41. Virginia C said...

    I am a Google Reader subscriber.

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  42. Virginia C said...

    I am a Google Friend Connect follower.

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  43. Virginia C said...

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  44. Virginia C said...

    I also entered the Dark Deceptions giveaway.

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  45. anthy said...

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  46. 409cope said...

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  47. 409cope said...

    I used the word amigo. cardshark42(at)hotmail(dot)com

  48. 409cope said...

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  49. 409cope said...

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  50. 409cope said...

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  51. 409cope said...

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  52. 409cope said...

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  53. Megan said...

    Gesundheit!

    mearley1979 (at) gmail (dot) com

  54. Khrys { Mom of 3 Dolls } said...

    Xin chào means hello in Vietnamese. I was I was more fluent, though!

  55. Khrys { Mom of 3 Dolls } said...

    Have your button

  56. Khrys { Mom of 3 Dolls } said...

    On my blogroll

  57. Khrys { Mom of 3 Dolls } said...

    FB friend

  58. Khrys { Mom of 3 Dolls } said...

    Follow on Networked Blogs

  59. Khrys { Mom of 3 Dolls } said...

    GFC

  60. Khrys { Mom of 3 Dolls } said...

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  61. Aik said...

    Adieu!

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  62. Aik said...

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  63. Aik said...

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  64. Aik said...

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  65. Aik said...

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  66. Darcie K. said...

    I always mix Spanish in with my english. I just called my friend chica.
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  67. Darcie K. said...

    I subscribe via email!!!
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  68. Darcie K. said...

    I entered the EvoraKids giveaway
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  69. Darcie K. said...

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  70. Darcie K. said...

    I follow via Networked Blogs
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  71. Darcie K. said...

    I follow via Google Friend Connect
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  72. anthy said...

    tweet! http://twitter.com/my_twitraccount/status/12431075675
    anthy_stl [ATT] yahoo [DOTT] com

  73. Elsie said...

    I have fun with words...

    manana (tomorrow)

    siesta (rest)

    aloha (hello, goodbye, love)

    pumpkinlady430@yahoo.com

  74. Anonymous said...

    love words! i used ennui today. scg00387 at yahoo dot com

  75. Anonymous said...

    http://twitter.com/DesMoinesDealin/status/12433086289

    scg00387 at yahoo dot com

  76. Melissa said...

    I use a lot of french words, like Faux Pas.

    xmeliss182x (at) yahoo (dot) com

  77. Latoshia said...

    My daughter and I recently learned the Russian for "It's delicious" and use it as often as we can!
    hpb157@yahoo.com

  78. Kitty said...

    We used-pierogi a lot around Easter.

  79. Bebemiqui said...

    We say "enshallah" around our house often, which means "if God wills it" as in "I hope it happens"
    bebemiqui82(at)yahoo(dot)com

  80. anthy said...

    tweet! http://twitter.com/my_twitraccount/status/12492146675
    anthy_stl [ATT] yahoo [DOTT] com

  81. Tannie's Chatter said...

    Daily Tweet

    http://twitter.com/tannieschatter/status/12497570162

    tanandjosh@telus.net

  82. anthy said...

    tweet! http://twitter.com/my_twitraccount/status/12511213204
    anthy_stl [ATT] yahoo [DOTT] com

  83. etirv said...

    I just used "beaucoup!"

    delilah0180(at)yahoo(dot)com

  84. etirv said...

    Google follower!

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  85. etirv said...

    Entered Seventh Generation giveaway!

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  86. etirv said...

    Entered Dark Deceptions giveaway!

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  87. etirv said...

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  88. etirv said...

    Entered What to Wear for the rest of Your Life giveaway!

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  89. Tannie's Chatter said...

    Daily Tweet

    http://twitter.com/tannieschatter/status/12580388920

    tanandjosh@telus.net

  90. Kitty said...

    tweet 4.21

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  91. couponmom said...

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  92. anthy said...

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  93. Tannie's Chatter said...

    Daily Tweet

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    tanandjosh@telus.net

  94. couponmom said...

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  95. couponmom said...

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  96. couponmom said...

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  97. couponmom said...

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  98. couponmom said...

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  100. couponmom said...

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  101. Kitty said...

    tweet 4.22

    http://twitter.com/maynekitty/status/12655731165

  102. anthy said...

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    anthy_stl [ATT] yahoo [DOTT] com

  103. Tannie's Chatter said...

    Daily Tweet

    http://twitter.com/tannieschatter/status/12683479918

    tanandjosh@telus.net

  104. anthy said...

    tweet! http://twitter.com/my_twitraccount/status/12697054523
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  105. Kitty said...

    tweet 4/23

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  106. Mystica said...

    Please include me in this giveaway.

    mystica123athotmaildotcom

  107. Tannie's Chatter said...

    Daily Tweet

    http://twitter.com/tannieschatter/status/12745069861

    tanandjosh@telus.net

  108. anthy said...

    tweet! http://twitter.com/my_twitraccount/status/12773300358
    anthy_stl [ATT] yahoo [DOTT] com

  109. Kitty said...

    tweet 4.24

    http://twitter.com/maynekitty/status/12775703776

  110. amweeks said...

    Whenever I want to know if my children have understood what I've told them, I ask them "Capeche?", like my grandmother always did with me!

  111. amweeks said...

    I follow you on twitter & tweeted! http://twitter.com/amweeks/status/12790094886

  112. amweeks said...

    I subscribe via email at annmarieweeks at verizon dot net!

  113. amweeks said...

    I follow on friend connect! (amweeks)

  114. amweeks said...

    I follow on Networked Blogs! (amweeks)

  115. anthy said...

    tweet! http://twitter.com/my_twitraccount/status/12821559221
    anthy_stl [ATT] yahoo [DOTT] com

  116. Tannie's Chatter said...

    Daily Tweet

    http://twitter.com/tannieschatter/status/12830456401

    tanandjosh@telus.net

  117. 409cope said...

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  118. anthy said...

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    anthy_stl [ATT] yahoo [DOTT] com

  119. Tannie's Chatter said...

    Daily Tweet

    http://twitter.com/tannieschatter/status/12888387096

    tanandjosh@telus.net

  120. Kitty said...

    tweet 4.26

    http://twitter.com/maynekitty/status/12888440430

  121. Tannie's Chatter said...

    Daily Tweet

    http://twitter.com/tannieschatter/status/12926543481

    tanandjosh@telus.net

  122. anthy said...

    tweet! http://twitter.com/my_twitraccount/status/12940622910
    anthy_stl [ATT] yahoo [DOTT] com

  123. Carrie said...

    I used the word souvenir recently in conversation

    carriemschmidt at gmail dot com

  124. Carrie said...

    I follow with Google Friend

    carriemschmidt at gmail dot com

  125. Carrie said...

    I subscribe to your email

    carriemschmidt at gmail dot com

  126. Tannie's Chatter said...

    Daily Tweet

    http://twitter.com/tannieschatter/status/12987241311

    tanandjosh@telus.net

  127. Kitty said...

    tweet

    http://twitter.com/maynekitty/status/12997643695

  128. Khrys { Mom of 3 Dolls } said...

    Entered EvoraKids

  129. Khrys { Mom of 3 Dolls } said...

    Entered Seventh Generation

  130. Khrys { Mom of 3 Dolls } said...

    Entered Body Butter and Lip Balm

  131. Khrys { Mom of 3 Dolls } said...

    Entered Dropps

  132. suzie said...

    I use Merci frequently

  133. suzie said...

    tweet
    http://twitter.com/suzquiz/status/13045124295

  134. suzie said...

    subscribe via email

  135. suzie said...

    follow on GFC
    suzquiz

  136. suzie said...

    fan on facebook
    suzquiz E

  137. suzie said...

    entered " what to wear "

  138. Tannie's Chatter said...

    Daily Tweet

    http://twitter.com/tannieschatter/status/13050737002

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  139. anthy said...

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  140. suzie said...

    http://twitter.com/suzquiz/status/13088178059

  141. katia said...

    i am a blog follower

    kshuttle@uoguelph.ca

  142. katia said...

    Moi? i use that a lot :)

    kshuttle@uoguelph.ca

  143. Tannie's Chatter said...

    Daily Tweet

    http://twitter.com/tannieschatter/status/13111156069

    tanandjosh@telus.net

  144. holdenj said...

    I subscribe via google reader.
    JHolden955(at)gmail(dot)com

  145. holdenj said...

    I have been known to blurt out "vite, vite, vite!" when trying to make my kids hurry up!
    Thanks for the chance to win.
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  146. holdenj said...

    I entered the Blogomania Girl's fave prize package giveaway!
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  147. holdenj said...

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  148. mim said...

    miriam dot nussbaum at gmail
    entered blogmania

  149. mim said...

    miriam dot nussbaum at gmail
    gfc

  150. mim said...

    i think the most recent foreign word i've used is ketchup!
    miriam dot nussbaum at gmail

  151. orionsmom said...

    I entered the blogamania giveaway.
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  152. orionsmom said...

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  154. anthy said...

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