Summer French class

Inquiring minds


Editor’s note: With our regular library liaison away on a summer vacation, we’re reprinting some classic “Inquiring Minds” columns. The questions and answers below originally ran in June 2003.


Each week the staff at the Roseville Library answers more than 2,500 questions on every subject under the sun. Here are some of the most interesting ones they’ve gotten lately.


Q. What is a sommelier?

A. In the kind of restaurant that uses French on the menu and prides itself on the length of its wine list, the sommelier is the waiter who is in charge of the wine cellar. The word “sommelier” is French, and it has an interesting origin. Originally, it came from a French expression meaning pack animal, “bÍte de somme.”  The “sommelier” was the fellow in charge of the pack animals, but since the most important cargo that the animals carried was obviously of an alcoholic nature, the term gradually shifted to its present-day meaning.  

(“Nouveau Petit Larousse Dictionary.”)


Q. Was Detroit Lakes named after Detroit, Michigan? Were both places named after French voyageurs?

A. No. The two places don’t have much in common at all, except the same name. The word “detroit” is French for strait. It refers to a landform, a narrow passageway connecting two bodies of water, that is, and not an early explorer. Detroit Lakes was known as plain Detroit until 1926, when it added the “Lakes” to avoid confusion with its larger namesake in Michigan.  

(“The Minnesota Guide.”)


Do you have a question for the staff at the Roseville Library? You can call them at 651-724-6001 or ask your question in person at the Information Desk, Roseville Library, 2180 Hamline Ave. Library hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

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