Odd Words: Champlevé

ChamplevéI found several interesting words on page 47 of The New York Times Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, and Mispronounced Words: Revised Edition! It also contained a number of words that were odd in a bad way too. But mostly, it’s a very good page. Even the featured word is interesting (although French): champlevé.

Singer of Songs

Everyone who reads this site should know what a “chanson” is. I’ve forced Jacques Brel on you often enough. But actually, the definition of the word is kind of variable depending upon who you ask. The default Google definition is just “a French song.” Wikipedia offers a more reasonable definition, “A chanson is in general any lyric-driven French song.”

The dictionary offered a special kind of chanson: “chanson de geste.” It is “a medieval French epic poem.” I’m more interested in the modern version of the chanson. But it is interesting that the general form has been around so long.

Anyway, let’s listen to Brel do “Port of Amsterdam”:

A Nice Cup of Tea

Also on page 47 was the word “chanoyu.” It is “a Japanese tea ceremony.” As you all know, I’m pretty fond of tea. But in Asia, people take tea consumption to shocking heights.

The last time I went China it was to talk to a company that made credit card processing machines. They wanted someone to create software for iPhones that used their device. Now, of course, these things are very common.

The problem was, in the time between them buying our tickets and us going, they had decided not to outsource the work. (Interesting thought though: a Chinese company outsourcing to the US.) So the trip mostly involved us siting in tea shops drinking tea.

It was remarkable to watch these young women make tea. It was like they were doing chemistry. Such great care was taken in the brewing process. Of course, we were drinking green tea, and it is brewed at a low temperature (roughly 160°), so this was necessary in order to create a really good cup (Bowl?!) of tea.

None of that helped, of course. I spent the entire trip blinded by rage. I’m not that fond of traveling. And I really don’t like China. I couldn’t believe that they wasted our time like that. But it was just one of those things.


Well, enough of French songs, Japanese tea, and that time I had to go to China for no good reason. The word of the day is “champlevé.” It has to do with jewelry making. I’ve always been fascinated by the processes that go into this art. Of course, I’ve never done it.

Cham·le·vé  noun  \shämləva’\

1. a technique for making jewelry and other small objects in which enamel is fused on to designs on a metal base.

Date: 19th century.

Origin: French — champ and levé — “field raised.”

Example: Celebrating the year of the rooster, the brand employs the champlevé enamel technique to bring the Classico Rooster to life. –Simone Louis, 10 Ornate Time Pieces For Those Who Love The Little Details.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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