(Photo: Ana Soto-Canino, Highland Park Art Gallery, Highland Park, New Jersey via New York Times)

Our hearts and thoughts are with our friends (and that’s everybody!) on the East Coast in the path of Hurricane Sandy. The media has referred to the storm as “formidable,” and Ana Soto-Canino shot the above photo featuring the word at the Highland Park Art Gallery in Highland Park, New Jersey. With a healthy defiance, the sign in the gallery window reads: “Bring IT On Sandy! We are Formidable too!”

And while my concern remains with all those affected by the hurricane, my writer’s mind is fascinated by the way “formidable” has snapped out of hibernation — and has sprung into news articles and handmade signs in store windows. Face it, Americans rarely use this word in writing or in speech.

In French, people use the word “formidable” all the time. It means, in effect, “wonderful or superb.”

In English, “formidable” means “dreaded or fearsome” — basically the opposite of the French meaning.

So, our French friends, don’t get the wrong impression of us when you read the sign in the Highland Park Art Gallery. We are not bragging about how great we are. We are just showing some spirit. C’est tout.