Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Word Of The Week

louvoyer

First there was the tutoiement, then there was the vouvoiement, and now there is the louvoiement! That's just a little French grammar humor.

The other night I watched a documentary about the fifteenth century Portuguese explorer, Prince Henry the Navigator. The program was more specifically about the new sailing ship that the Portuguese developed that allowed them to go farther, faster. Up to then most long distance boats were galères, the kind with the not-so-happy rowers chained inside.

Henry wanted to sail beyond Cape Bojador on the west coast of Africa. The narrator said that Cape Bojador was significant because beyond this point the winds and currents did not favor a return trip north. Up until that time, most sailors that went further south were not heard from again.

The new ship, called a caravelle, was larger but lighter than the typical sailing ships of the day, with two or three larger triangular sails affixed to taller masts. The new configuration made the boats faster, and they were easier to maneuver, especially when tacking.

And it was tacking against the wind that allowed the ships to return to Portugal from beyond Cape Bojador.

And that's what today's word is all about. Louvoyer means to tack, as in sailing. It can also mean to beat around the bush or to take a discussion this way and that so as not to arrive directly at the point.

Image from: http://atlas.nrcan.gc.ca

3 comments:

  1. Thank goodness we don't have to contend with that in this post.

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  2. bill, yes, yes, how true.

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  3. It brought to my mind: BIAISER. For the girl who could not choose, from one day to the next, which beau she should favour!

    Claudia

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