Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My tastes in French words

Certain words and expressions in the glorious French language correspond, in my mind, to opposite extremes on the scale of beauty and ugliness. Let me start with the latter.

• I'm annoyed by the French adjective moelleux, which might be translated as "mushy". It's a texture reference to the slushy matter inside our spinal cord. This adjective, in French, is a favorite of distributors of foodstuffs such as yoghurt, cheese, etc.

• I detest the French expression baume au cœur. Theoretically, this means "heart ointment". Metaphorically, it designates soothing effects of all kinds. Each time I hear this expression, my auditive system records the nonsense expression beau moqueur ("handsome mocker").

• I react unfavorably every time I hear of an alleged ville d'étape. This means a town for an overnight stop. But what makes one town more favorable than another to be stopped in for an evening and night?

• An old-fashioned word I adore in French is sapience, which exists also in English. It means wisdom, like Sophia: the name of my deceased dog.

Once upon a time, there was a weird German medieval mystic named Heinrich Seuse (in English: Henry Suso).

He was an adept of practices known as mortification, designed to promote personal pain conducive to an assimilation with the sufferings of the Lord. He wore underclothes studded with nails. Like a Hindu fakir, he slept on a bed of nails, even at the height of winter. And it is said that he never washed himself for a quarter of a century. Still, he succeeded in producing a fabulous illustrated masterpiece, Horologium Sapientiae (Clock of Sapience).

Its general theme, in a nutshell, was that the acquisition of philosophical wisdom is rhythmed by the metronomic ticks of a clock, which remind us constantly of our imminent encounter with death.

1 comment:

  1. Your blog about French word is really interesting. France is wonderful place and i like France culture, food etc . I have visited last summer in France and i have some awesome snap . This photograph really memorable things in my life.