Thursday, December 10, 2009

Word of the Day

I was just reading my friend Patrick's blog Man.Hat in. about the subway, vertigo, and running into people. I love his blog because it does remind me of what I loved about New York (as opposed to all the other stuff that got to me), and what I still do.

Anyhow, as I finished reading it the word flâneur popped into my head. I was thinking I liked the word vertigo and was thinking of others. I don't know that I even could tell you what it means. In fact, it conjured up pictures of copper bottom cookware, blue flames, and caramel desert. Flâneur, n., a French person who makes flan.

Actually, from the link above, you'll see that it means someone who strolls the city leisurely, aesthetically observing and enjoying. I have been a flâneur in NY and in Seattle, and now in LA. I love exploring the places I live (although in LA you drive, which is not nearly as rewarding). People seem to think I've lived places longer than I have, and it's only because I'm curious about cities I live in and their history.

There are two French verbs "to know" - connaître and savoir. One is for things you know absolutely (savoir), like a math problem; the other for things you can never know completely but be familiar with (connaître), like a person or a city. How excellent is that? You can never know completely a city. Like Steve Martin said, "Those French - they have a different word for everything!"

And Patrick, as you'll note from his blog is King Flâneur, in the best way. It says there's no English word equivalent, so we'll use the French. And I love the weird synchronicity of that word popping into my head. I am enamored of a word that desribes someone savoring the place they live, with no other aim than to enjoy it and pass that on. C'est magnifique!


Elizabeth said...

Once again, I feel connected to you in weird ways. The word "flaneur" is one of my favorite words in any language. I was a French and English lit major and college and while I hated French, I loved to conjugate verbs, especially flaner: je flane, tu flanes, il/elle flane, nous flanons, vous flanez, ils/elles flanent. My favorite is je flane.

And why is my word verification the exceedingly ugly "scrod?"

Criticlasm said...

I LOVE word verification! Sometimes I take it as sign, and that's a bad thing when the words are like "doom crater" or something like that.

Someone pointed out a funny synchronicity in the post as well, that in Vertigo, Madeleine asks Scotty what he does for a living, and he answers, "I just wander."