Saturday, April 9, 2005

Chic code

THE words that English has borrowed from other languages can come in very useful when a special code is required, especially while dealing with matters of the heart. This code can be quite effective for the simple reason that although these words are a part of the lexicon, they are not instantly understood by the majority of the language users. For instance, to address a loved one in public but to keep the endearment private, acushla or macushla can be very useful.

Acushla is part of the Irish Gaelic endearment cuisle mo chroidhe, which means ‘my heart’s pulse’. The initial ‘a’ stands for oh! and it is also used as macushla where ‘ma’ represents mo or my. While acushla is not gender specific, the Italian inamorato is a girl’s sweetheart and inamorata refers to a man’s girlfriend. Both words were borrowed by English from Italian around the end of the 16th century and are noun forms of the past participle of inamorare or ‘charm’.

An intimate meal is a meal a deux, a French term that means ‘for two’. This expression made its first appearance in English in the 1870s as a musical term denoting a piece or passage composed for two performers or instruments. By the end of the century, it offered a temptation to lovers looking for such an expression and subsequently took on the context of an intimate meeting of two.

English borrowed the French amour or ‘love’ in the 13th century when it came to be used synonymously with love. In ‘amours with’ was used for ‘in love with’ but by the 17th century this generalised sense was replaced by the sense of ‘a clandestine or illicit love affair’. Once entrapped, take care not to be caught in flagrante delicto or ‘with the crime blazing’. First taken up by the register of law, this expression is used to refer to the capture of a person red-handed. Today, it is often used for the discovery of someone while involved in an ‘amour’ and has been shortened to in flagrante.