As smoke and flames billow from the engines, pieces of metal peel away and flake off into the air stream, the plane shakes violently, alarms blare, teenagers scream, and flight attends bellow, “Assume the crash position!”, with the ground racing upwards and warning sirens screeching, wouldn’t it be nice to know that the pilot on the flight deck has sangfroid?
More importantly, as James Bond careens around the corners of narrow mountain roads with no guard rails in his exorbitant sports car, with hordes of villainous villains armed with semiautomatic weapons in hot pursuit, wouldn’t you say that it’s crucial for Agent 007 to demonstrate sangfroid when—in addition to everything else—a deer steps out in front of him?
You would if you knew that sangfroid—pronounced (because it’s a French word, really) “sahn-FRWA” (with the R close to, but not quite, silent)—means keeping one’s cool in stressful or dangerous situations.
Sangfroid (and remember, it’s not pronounced at all the way it’s spelled) is the ability to maintain a high degree of composure even when the roof starts to give in. While you’re not likely to be in any crashing planes or Albert Broccoli films, you may discover sangfroid to be quite handy this winter if, for example, your car skids on ice (or if someone else’s does as you’re headed their direction).
Sangfroid doesn’t necessarily have to be demonstrated only in cases where life and limb are in jeopardy. If you look up just now and notice a big, hairy, ungainly spider lurking on the ceiling above you, you may react as a large number of people do, screaming and leaping about and hiding in the cabinet. Or, you could demonstrate your sangfroid by resisting that urge and calmly excusing yourself from the vicinity.
Sangfroid (once again: “sahn-FRWA”, where the second syllable is pronounced almost as “FWA” with just a hint of “R” thrown in for good measure) should not be confused for courage. It might be considered courageous, for example, upon espying that hideous beast of a spider looming over you, to stand up and smack it with your bare hand. It might also be considered stupid, incidentally. Either way, boldness and bravery are not part of sangfroid, which consists merely of not “flipping out” when things go haywire.
Editor’s Note: This post was written by Mark Jacobs. Mark is a volunteer assistant editor for Jet Fuel Review. He is double-majoring in Physics and Air Traffic Control Management at Lewis, but the left side of his brain is an avid writer. Mark is a junior and works as a ramp traffic controller at O’Hare and at Panera Bread, from which he does not steal dozens of bagels every day.