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F is for:

A lot of languages have words that sound like "fresh" (frais, fraƮche, fresca, frio, frisch, fersk, etc) but they don't always mean exactly the same as the English word "fresh".

"Fresh" is not about low temperatures. It's about newness, about being new. "Fresh bread" is new bread; it's often warm and it can even be hot. If I knock over your cup of hot coffee, I say "Oh, I'm very sorry, I'll get you a fresh cup," and I get you another hot coffee. Fresh vegetables come straight from the garden in summer, or straight from the farm. After a week or two in your refrigerator, they're not "fresh" any more. Fresh flowers are still new and perfect.

"Fresh" is about being new; it's also about being clean. It's about not being contaminated. "Fresh water" can be hot or cold, but it is water without salt. And "fresh air" can be hot or cold, but it definitely doesn't have cigarette smoke in it, it doesn't smell of plastic or perfume, and it has not already been breathed by 37 other people. And it doesn't come from air conditioning, either.

If you want "fresh air", you have to open a window, or go outside, or maybe go out of the city. The air by the sea or on top of a mountain is always "fresh air". A person who always wants to have the windows open, even in winter, is a "fresh air fiend". Where can you find the freshest "fresh air"? By a waterfall, or by the sea. Apparently this is because moving water creates lots of negative ions.

By extension, you can also talk about "fresh ideas" or "fresh blood" (which is not really blood, it means that new people have come, and they have new ideas and new attitudes). You can also say, if a person brings good new ideas and good new attitudes, "(S)he's a real breath of fresh air!" We don't say "fresh news", though. When we buy a newspaper, it's because we want to read the latest news, or up-to-date news.

If you want to talk about low temperatures, you don't say "fresh", you say cool, chilly, cold or freezing. If we talk about the air in a mortuary, crypt or catacomb (rooms where you put dead people) it is certainly cool, chilly or cold, but it is certainly not "fresh".

The exception: As you know, in English there is an exception to every rule. In this sentence, "fresh" actually does mean "low temperature": "It's not cold today, it's lovely and fresh!" This is the sort of thing a teacher says to his/her students when the class is working outdoors, early in the morning, when half the students think it's the Arctic and the other half want another coffee.

Image by: Jill Wellington from Pixabay
Woman in fresh air

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