Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Un peu ronde, gironde

I was reading the second book of Mireille Guiliano about French women and their art of living for pleasure when I come across this expression: un peu ronde, translated by the author as a tad overweight. Usually, I like the way she translates French concepts into English (she was trained in one of the best translating schools in Paris and had a career as a translator for international institutions before moving into corporate world). But this time, I was quite uncomfortable with the tad overweight. It was correct by any account, but whereas I would happily and routinely describe myself as un peu ronde, I would never identify with the English phrasing: it implies that something is wrong. But then I thought, how would I say it in English? Probably, I would be happiest with a bit round, the calque from French. Curvy is not bad, although it describes the outline rather than the shape. Curvacious, voluptious, and even juicy are all correct, but they appear to be rather emotional and intimate.

In French, however, I once learned another great word. Several years ago at a conference in Spoleto , in a mixed French and Italian company, the conversation turned to the Italian word formosa, meaning shapely and beautiful. (We were discussing Roman statues, let me reassure you.) A professor from Brussels mentioned that there was a good old French equivalent, gironde. Its etymology is uncertain (I have checked), but I still remember the definition given by the professor. 'Gironde, he said, 'come Sophia Loren in tutto il suo splendore!'


Saffron said...

Actually "formosa" is the right explanation for awoman like Sophia LOren!
I like your blog.

Baltic Polyglottic said...

Mille grazie! It is nice to have a reader from my favourite Italian city. Italians definitely know a thing or two about feminine beauty!