Friday, April 8, 2011

Maurice, the bagatelles, hurry up.

Here, this is me trying to be more disciplined and write more often. I don't plan on writing anything good tonight. But I want to write something, you hear? So, I have a word for the day. I almost wrote about this one last night, but I was too tired. The word is "bagatelle." I'll give you three guesses as to which language English borrowed this word from. That's right, you don't need three guesses: it's French. Thank you battle of Hastings.

Oddly enough, a bagatelle is not something edible. Lexical delectation only. The most commonly used meaning of bagatelle these days is "a trifle." But again, not the kind of trifle you eat, rather "something of little importance." Its second meaning has to do with a game which involves "rolling balls into scoring areas," or so says Merriam Websters. Well, that sounded rather strange and a little suspicious to me, so I consulted other dictionaries and eventually YouTube, which revealed bagatelle to be something that looked like an ancestor of the pinball machine. It has little pins and obstacles blocking the holes that you are trying to get the balls in. Actually, it is a macro version of one of those little hand-held affairs that used to be popular before Gameboys came to be. They had little steel BB's that you would try to roll around and get to stick into various slots. Anyway, a bagatelle looks like a four-foot by three-foot version of one of those.

The third definition is "a short literary or musical piece in light style," whatever that means. I think Beethoven wrote a few bagatelles or something. The end.

So, most of the contemporary ways to introduce this word into your daily life would be to use it in the first sense--a trifle. Well, I started out thinking that this would be a good idea, but I have changed my mind. It just sounds rather pretentious, I'm beginning to think. I guess a lot of French words do, but can you imagine breaking out this new word in public:

Friend: Hey, Cort, how are you doing? My, but that is a fetching waistcoat you have on.

Cort: Oh, this old thing; it's just a bagatelle, really.

Friend: It's a what?

Cort: Just a bagatelle.

Friend: Is he a designer?

Cort: No, no, it's just a trifle.

Friend: Gross, are you supposed to eat it?

Cort: No, a trifle, you know, something of little importance.

Friend: Oh...

Cort: Sorry...I...

Friend: Um...Hey, I've got to run.

So, really, be careful with this one.


  1. Awesome dramatization. You should do more flash drama (as in the playwright's version of flash fiction).

  2. Thanks Spencer. Maybe I will. How short is flash drama, exactly? Like what is in this post? I guess I could just google it.