In a word: Craquelure

August 15, 2011

Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a moderately obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar — another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. This week's word:


You've seen the pattern of fine cracks in the paint and varnish of a painting, caused by shrinkage, but you may not have known that there is a term for it, craquelure (pronounced krak-LOOR). It comes from the French verb craqueler, "to crackle."

Example: Like many literal words, it lends itself to metaphor. When Jonathan Swift writes in one of his birthday poems to Stella that she has "An angel's face, a little crack'd," he alludes to the craquelure that the passage of years produces on the skin. Even his affection carried a sting in it.

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