Préciosité – a French #Language mess

Who were Les Précieuses? A few ladies in some salons, in the 17th Century, under the reign of Louis XIV, king of France.

What is it all about? A very affected way of using words, with some quirky metaphors and periphrasis, banishment of “bad words”, a strong will to be original and precious. An overstatement of elegance and exquisiteness…

Of course it sounded pretentious (Molière satirized the Précieuses in his play Les Précieuses ridicules.), but it’s funny to watch it today. And it can be tool to work with.

Examples : 

  • A hand : “moving beauty”
  • Teeth : “mouth furniture”
  • Of course the eyes became “the mirrors of the soul”

There’s a French Dictionary of preciousity here : http://www.miscellanees.com/s/somaize.htm

Consequences :

Some idioms, in France, come from this period. We say “un billet doux” (“a sweet note”) for a love letter, and “perdre son sérieux” (“to lose one’s seriousness”) when you begin to laugh!

Dial :

What are the territories, today, which will maybe considered as “Précieuse” in the future?

Tool :

It can be a very little but useful tool in a brainstorming session. Stop everything. Gather what you already got, and make it Précieuse.

A common sense says that “less is beautiful”. So what if “more is beautiful… in another way”?

What can you MAKE précieuse? Words, of course. Design? Objects? Art? Poetry?

Thanks for reading!
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