In a word: embonpoint

May 15, 2012|By John E. McIntyre | The Baltimore Sun

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:


Some of us, well, many of us, are growing portly or corpulent. All right, fat. But if we wish to dignify our stoutness, no word would be better than embonpoint (pronounced ahn-bohn-pwan). From the French en bon point, "in good condition, it indicates plumpness, sometimes particularly the female bosom.

It may be, the Oxford English Dictionary advises, either complimentary or euphemistic. Take it as you will.

Example: A passage from P.G. Wodehouse's introduction to The World of Jeeves illustrates the word while offering some valuable advice about the advantages of large books:

“There is, of course, this to be said for the Omnibus Book in general and this one in particular. When you buy it, you have got something. The bulk of this volume makes it almost the ideal paper-weight. The number of its pages assures its posessor of plenty of shaving paper on his vacation. Place upon the waistline and jerked up and down each morning, it will reduce embonpoint and strengthen the abdominal muscles. And those still at their public school will find that between, say, Caesar's Commentaries in limp cloth and this Jeeves book there is no comparison as a missile in an inter-study brawl.”

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