the best of words, the worst of words: aurore and concubinage

On Sunday I went to a gathering at which there were not one, not two, but three French transplants. So I subjected all of them to my little favorite/least favorite words exercise, and I’ll share their responses one by one as I get around to typing them up. First, there’s Anne Cecile aka Anna, a journalist who is working on an intriguing documentary that I am not at liberty to discuss. But take my word for it, it will be good.

Anne Cecile favorite word

I am a fan of Anna’s choice. Aurore is a lovely-sounding word and her translation of it is even more lovely. While Google tells me it simply means “dawn,” Anna insisted that aurore has a more complicated meaning no one English word can completely capture. So why is it her favorite? Translated from the French (to the best of my ability!): “It’s a word for a fleeting moment that is beautiful and precious. The word could be ugly if it were said in a harsh way but it’s said with softness. And it’s a hopeful word for when things are fresh and new again.”

On to the least favorite:

Anne Cecile hates the word concubinage

Funnily enough, concubine is one of my favorite words but I can see how it’s not for everyone. English concubine and French concubinage have different connotations. Concubinage is basically domestic partnership or common law marriage. Anna points out that while she is all for the concept of concubinage, it’s the word itself that she doesn’t like. Too many of the same sounds back to back. “It’s almost like the word was designed to be ugly so people wouldn’t do it.” A word with a conservative agenda!

I love how both of Anna’s choices require a multi-word explanation – more of a definition than a translation. So, thanks to Anna for her powers of description, and for lodging these two new words firmly in my brain!

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