“Le mot juste,” the right word. I first heard the phrase in the sixth grade when I showed my father a short piece of fiction I was working on for school. I had come up with a picturesque little scene but the story was choking on a potpourri of unnecessary words. My father kindly explained the phrase and suggested I take it into consideration. I took his advice to heart and what resulted was a piece that I was truly proud of. I think I saved it somewhere… I’ll post it when I find it because the memory still makes me smile.
Tonight I had a different kind of experience with finding the right word. I was listening to David Foster Wallace’s Both Flesh and Not and I heard the word bricolage. Now I’m sure I’ve heard the word before, but tonight it jumped out at me. I paused the book and read the Wikipedia page.
Bricolage (/ˌbriːkɵˈlɑːʒ/ or /ˌbrɪkɵˈlɑːʒ/) is a term used in several disciplines, among them the visual arts, to refer to the construction or creation of a work from a diverse range of things that happen to be available, or a work created by such a process. The term is borrowed from the French word bricolage, from the verb bricoler, the core meaning in French being, “fiddle, tinker” and, by extension, “to make creative and resourceful use of whatever materials are at hand (regardless of their original purpose)”. In contemporary French the word is the equivalent of the English do it yourself, and is seen on large shed retail outlets throughout France. A person who engages in bricolage is a bricoleur.
The Diletante Savant has a nice ring to it, but bricoleur feels like the right word. ❤
The Académie Française was founded by Louis XIII on February 22, 1635, on the urging of Cardinal Richelieu. The forty members sit for life and are known as Les Immortels. They are tasked with creating the official French dictionary and advising on matters of language. They served an important function in helping to unite France through a common language at a time when the people in the south were almost incomprehensible to those in the north and vice versa. They also have totally awesome uniforms. That’s Jean Cocteau in his.
Today’s expression, le mot juste, (le moe joost) means “the right word.” It conveys the idea of being exactly the right word for the situation. Wouldn’t it be nice to always know that?