Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Chatoyant - Irisdescent Undulating Lustre


Foreign. Noun & adjective. Now rare. Late 18th century.
[French, present participle of chatoyer.]

(Of) iridescent undulating lustre.

I rather like the look of this word, but its heavily Anglicised pronunciation of shat-oi-yunt utterly obliterates it. Personally, when I casually drop chatoyant in conversation (as one regularly has call to do), I use the ever so much classier French pronunciation of shat-wa-yanh.

Listen to the two pronunciations by clicking here and tell me what you think.


  1. I think I prefer the English pronunciation, which starts sha-.
    To me, the French pronunciation sounds like it starts with shat - past participle of, well you know what! :)
    I'll go to me corner now!

    1. Jingles!

      Utterly appalling.

      Do I assume that a holiday in a French château is unappealing for the same reason?

  2. I think I prefer the English way, too. The trouble with dropping a French word into an English sentence is that you have to alter the whole shape of your mouth to do it, and the resulting pause can't help but come over as affected. I speak as someone who spent a childhood trying to say j'habite en Hemel Hempstead without making myself sound ridiculous.

    1. For me, the problem with this word under either pronunciation is that it'll generally be greeted by a blank look in response. Therefore, I think that if no one's going to know what I'm on about anyway, I might as well sound French as I go about it.