Couiner

Couiner

In this double-whammy week of French gloire, Bastille Day plus World Cup victoire, a half dozen proudly round sounding ooohh French words which have been playing in my ears since I stumbled upon them. First, a few onomatopoeic verbs and nouns, starting with...
Chuchoter

Chuchoter

What a lovely sh-sh-sh quiet whispering sound, meaning, indeed, ‘to whisper’.  A whisper is ‘un chuchotement’, and a whispered conversation is ‘une chuchoterie’. The whisperer, as in horses, is ‘un chuchoteur’ or...
Chuinter

Chuinter

To hoot (as in owl) or to hiss (as in snake).  ‘Chuintant’ is hushing, and ‘un chuintement’ is a hoot or a hiss. Another word for an owl’s hooting is closer to the English: hululer. See also ‘couiner’ and...
Roucouler

Roucouler

The second syllable has the clue, here is how to bill and coo… This soft word can mean to whisper sweet nothings, or if you’re less sentimental, you can use it to dismiss a singer as a mere crooner.  It can also evoke the cooing of a bird. The business of...
Roudoudou

Roudoudou

A wonderful word for a hard sweet or candy.  Put one in your mouth and then try saying ‘roudoudou’ five times. Second thoughts, better not, we mustn’t be choking on our words. The dictionary doesn’t give the plural, so may I ask French friends...
Boursoufler

Boursoufler

A word that rolls into its roundness the sound of blowing (‘souffler’), conveying something of its meaning: to swell, puff up, or in the case of paint, to blister. It can also be a reflexive verb, ‘se boursoufler’, and the noun is twofold:...
Nuannaarpoq

Nuannaarpoq

Can a word change a life? This Eskimo word changed mine and made me curious about a people who could create such a word. I’ve spent the last quarter of a century turning it over in my mind like a gleaming pebble in the palm of the hand, pondering what I could...
Quviannikumut

Quviannikumut

A glorious Eskimo word for feeling deeply happy – I wish you many moments of quviannikumut. ‘Sitting high on a sea cliff in sunny, blustery weather in late June – the familiar sense of expansiveness, of deep exhilaration such weather brings over one,...
Isumataq

Isumataq

Barry Lopez’ masterful Arctic Dreams gave me an inkling of a richly philosophical seam in the Eskimo language. If you sit down and watch, read or listen to the news, you may despair at the apparent absence of anything resembling an isumataq in the upper echelons...

Pin It on Pinterest