Sunday, January 10, 2010

light, steam, bof

Posted by Picasa Snow lying on branches is pleasing to look at. It seems to have something in common with the process of drawing, a sort of reverse shading to enhance outlines. The winter sun, low in the sky, improves the effect with with a hint of gold.
" In the morning the steam from the central heating boiler vent in the house opposite forms a fleeting cloud of mist. To day, the shadow of the trunk of the tulip tree, behind which the sun is rising, bisects the cloud with a perpendicular shadow".
This note is in fact three days old when last we saw the sun in the morning. I mention this in case a meteorologist or historian should happen upon it and wrongly conclude that the morning of Sunday 10 January was other than overcast.
I like derisory and dismissive one-syllable words that are descriptive, almost onomatopoeic, yet never crude or offensive. My favourite is "pish" which my friend, Anna often uses, and to good effect. Today, I come across what I think is the French equivalent, bof. There is an important difference however. Pish, says the Oxford Dictionary is first recorded in 1521, while bof, according to Robert, goes back to 1973. I do not think that I have heard anyone say bof, having only encountered it in a novel by Romain Gary. Is it too much to hope that one day someone will be prompted to say it in my presence in an appropriate context, of course?


Lucy said...

Yes, people here really do say 'bof'!

Have you read Jan Struther's 'Mrs Miniver'? She collects such oddities, but remarks that she is still waiting for a 'Pshaw!'

Unknown said...

I saw the film of Mrs Miniver when I was a child, with Greer Garson in the title role.
I have never heard "Pshaw", but I have heard people make odd noises when they mean something like it. It took me a long time to realize that "Hein", when spoken, was composed entirely of vowels, and used to wonder why French people were depicted in novels using a word that rhymed with "wine" or "dine" and sounded like a German word or a marque of brandy.

Lucy said...

The book is a zillion times better than the film; it's the columns she wrote in... the Times, I think, which unfolded in real time in the early days of the war. It's like the best kind of blog really: intelligent, reflective, observational stuff, charming but never saccharine. Well worth seeking out.

I have heard bantering French reply to 'Hein?' with 'Deux!'.

'Oh la-la!' is alive and well in all circles, but one rarely hears 'Zut!', and I've yet to hear 'Zut alors!'.

CV is 'psatspir', which sounds like another interjection!