june 18: dollops

French is a courtly language. I was putting a dollop of yoghurt onto my stewed rhubarb yesterday when I quizzed myself as to the French word for dollop. I was irritated because I should be able to come up with something adequate for this. It is not like the word for a combine harvester which you either know or don’t; it is a word you can construct yourself. Miffed, I looked it up, and to my delight and disappointment saw that I couldn’t come up with a word because French doesn’t do it. The renderings the on-line and hard-copy dictionary offered were cuilleree or morceau (literally, spoonful or bit). Delighted because my competence was not shown up but disappointed in the language. Yes. French is a courtly and a precise language but not very expressive sometimes. You can imagine at the French court no dollops would be permitted and it was the court and then the academy that dictated the development of the language. In German, by the way, the word is Klacks. Much nicer. The word Klecks with an e means blob. The change of vowel indicates a change of dimension. Three-dimensional Klacks (dollop) becoming two-dimensional Klecks (blob or smudge). Vowels can have this transformative effect. In English a splash is bigger than a splish, right?


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