LUMIERE.

I occasionally run across clippings I tucked into books years ago, and I just found one that had a quote so marvelous I had to share it with you all. A Scott Kraft piece on the Lumière brothers in the Los Angeles Times of Dec. 24, 1995 (on the occasion of the centennial of their first public exhibition of films to a paying audience) included this sentence:

The Lumière brothers have a special place in the hearts of the French, who now use the word lumière to mean “light.”

No, this is not The Onion, and as far as can be told from context he was being entirely serious. (In case you were wondering, lumière is from Latin lūminaria, originally ‘torches,’ derived from lūmen, -inis ‘light’; in northern Gaul, lūminaria ousted the classical word lūx, which is retained in other Romance languages.)

Comments

  1. Fantastic!!
    ¡jajajajaja!

  2. marie-lucie says:

    Marvelous indeed! Unbelievable too!

  3. I wish my name could be a household word!

  4. Mark Flowers says:

    My family has become so famous that they named an entire grouping of plants after us.

  5. I can’t wait to tell Enoch Light.

  6. Vance Maverick says:

    My family name is so resonant that they named an entire presidential campaign after us!

  7. I’m not surprised that it occurred to Kraft, to be honest. I mean, we’re talking about a man who has achieved such heights of careful composition and erudition that we now use his name to mean “skill in carrying out one’s work.”

  8. Lighting engineers use the word “luminaire” to mean a light fixture. And they measure how bright their luminaires are in units of “lux”.

  9. I only knew about the younger brother, the one who did those lighting effects, Sonny Lumiere.

  10. we now use his name to mean “skill in carrying out one’s work.”
    No, “craft” is an entirely different word. “Kraft” means “sort of like cheese”.

  11. To be pedantic, the ‘brightness’ of a light source is measured in candelas (from candle power). The unit ‘Lux’ is the measure of the illumination on a surface (1 Lux = 1 Lumen per square metre).
    I knew a lighting salesman who introduced himself to me as Mr (Robert or John or something) Luxmore. I always assumed it was a false name and so realised that it wasn’t just actors who might use ‘stage’ names to help careers.

  12. Thanks, PK. I’m usually wrong, but not so often you can count on it. In this case I was trying to remember the difference, so it’s good that you knew.

  13. J. W. Brewer says:

    Similar anecdote from the punk rock years (although maybe too good to be true?): at the end of 1980 the Clash released a sprawling mess of a triple album named “Sandinista!” and on the ensuing American tour there were at some shows booths next to the t-shirt sales where earnest/credulous young Marxist activists could pass out literature promoting tropical revolution. Supposedly some of the fans receiving this literature thought it was totally cool that the new Nicaraguan regime had named itself after a Clash album.

  14. komfo,amonan says:

    I wish my name could be a household word!
    Well, no man is an island.

  15. marie-lucie says:

    ø: I wish my name could be a household word!
    Are you sure? You wouldn’t want to be called Garbage, for instance. Look what happened to Mr. Poubelle in France: he introduced mandatory garbage cans (instead of just throwing garbage in the streets), which have been called poubelles ever since.
    But I think that “ø” is just the same as French euh (see FILLERS). My brother-in-law starts every response to a question with euh, and he is not the only one to do so.

  16. My brother-in-law starts every response to a question with euh, and he is not the only one to do so.

    Any chance of grammaticalization?

  17. marie-lucie says:

    lukas: well, maybe it is part of his own idiolectal grammar! But I think it mostly gives him a couple of seconds to think of his answer.

  18. at the end of 1980 the Clash released a sprawling mess of a triple album named “Sandinista!”
    Hey! I bought that album the day it came out and I like it! OK, “sprawling mess” might be a fair description, but it’s a good sprawling mess! I’d trade U2′s entire career for Side One alone.
    Supposedly some of the fans receiving this literature thought it was totally cool that the new Nicaraguan regime had named itself after a Clash album.
    Yeah, that sounds like classic urban/get-off-my-lawn myth.

  19. marie-lucie,
    komfo,amonan is punning.

  20. marie-lucie says:

    Sili, I was not responding to komfo,amonan, but to ø (a name so short that it is easily overlooked).
    Now I see from the link (thank you) that ø means ‘island’, so I understand k’s reply, but that was not what my own reply to ø was referring to.

  21. I always assumed it was a false name and so realised
    The aspectual dance of the verbs in this fragment is doing funny things to me.

  22. I know, m-l, but I assumed that ø made his comment exactly because his ‘nym already is a household word. (At least among Scandinavians and mathematicians.)
    My apologies for butting in.

  23. marie-lucie says:

    Sili, don’t apologize, I would not have understood ø or k without your explanations, so you were right to “butt in”.

  24. michael farris says:

    My family is so famous they named a popular carnival ride after us. Of course the stupid bastards got the spelling wrong, but it’s the thought that counts. Thanks everybody!

  25. Trond Engen says:

    Michael Farris’ family is so famous they first named a Norwegian lake after them, and then a natural mineral water bottled nearby. Oh, and finally those biblical guys who would only have mineral water.

  26. Time to set the record straight.
    The confusion in Kraft’s mind made me think of mixing up two meanings of “His name is a household word.” Idiomatically it means that one is famous, but the same expression could mean that one’s name is identical with an everyday word.
    Perhaps I was imagining that lumière was the name of a household object, viz. a lamp, which if true would have made my lame little jest just a shade less lame.
    I was not in fact thinking of the name “Ø” when I made my lame little jest — or of the name “empty”, either. If I thought of a name of my own at all, it was, fleetingly, of my real-world surname, which is not much use for this purpose.*
    I didn’t catch on until recently** that “ø” means “island”.
    When I write my name “Ø” I pronounce it “empty”. Maybe I need a new name.
    * though by a mad coincidence my first name is the same as a Norwegian word for “empty”.
    ** when Trond called me some kind of beer named after an island in a poem on another thread

  27. poubelle I wouldn’t mind being named Tom Trashcan. When I was about 5 years old, I stated that I wanted to be a trash collector when I grew up.

  28. Or more likely I said “garbage man”.

  29. some of the fans receiving this literature thought it was totally cool that the new Nicaraguan regime had named itself after a Clash album
    Yes, those “fans” were and remain called “the Reagan ‘Administration’”.

  30. marie-lucie says:

    “Ø”: Perhaps I was imagining that lumière was the name of a household object, viz. a lamp,
    La lumière means ‘light’, or ‘the light’, but une lumière can be ‘a light’ in the sense of an object that emits light, such as a lamp, as in English: toutes les lumières sont allumées “all the lights are on” can refer to all the lamps or all the light bulbs, for instance.

  31. michael farris says:

    “Michael Farris’ family is so famous they first named a Norwegian lake after them”
    And the Norwegians got the spelling right, too!
    Tusen takk, Norge!

  32. Trond Engen says:

    Trond called me some kind of beer named after an island in a poem on another thread
    Rather an island in a poem directly. Der boede en underlig gråsprængt én på den yderste nøgne Ø is the opening line of Ibsen’s Terje Vigen. Since ‘nøgen’ is Danish for “naked, bare”, ‘nøgne Ø’ means “the sheer emptiness”.

  33. Trond Engen says:

    Which is the usual condition of my beer bottles. It all adds up.

  34. If I knew how to copy empty’s character from the Character Map, I could complete ‘Finally we know The Story of‘.

  35. marie-lucie says:

    iakon: how to copy empty’s character
    You don’t need to go to the Character Map, you can copy it right here, from his name/byline or from a text that mentions it. Ditto for any text that has unusual characters or anything here that you want to copy. (Italics, etc won’t be copied, but most characters will be).

  36. Siganus Sutor says:

    Only a small semi-venomous fish was named after me.
    Une lumière can also be a hole somewhere in a surface. In one side of a closed box for instance, i.e. what can sometimes be called camera obscura.

  37. marie-lucie says:

    A hole for admitting light.

  38. Siganus Sutor says:

    Exactement. Fiat lux!
    And it’s the same in English: “Light 11. Mech. An aperture or clear space 1776.” (SOED)

  39. Wow! So many French terms seem to be from the south and hence “virtually” Catalan, that we’d always naïvely assumed “poubelle” had some relationship to the Catalan word “pou” (a well) and hence that “poubelle” was a sort of prettified way of referring to a pit into which one flung ordure. Now we know better. Thank you; Marie-Lucie et al.

  40. marie-lucie says:

    Catanea, great story! But the French equivalent of Català “pou” is le puits (pronounced “pui”) ‘the well’ or ‘the pit’. Another term for la poubelle is la boîte à ordures, literally ‘the can for trash’. In my family we use both terms, but I think that we use the second one more often than the first.

  41. “Light 11. Mech. An aperture or clear space 1776.” (SOED)
    Something about this doesn’t sound right.
    My dead tree version says 12 Mech. An aperture, a clear space. L18. Eighteenth century, this means it’s not in current usage(?)
    Turning to OED1, 11 Mech, An aperture or clear space. (Cf. F. lumiére.)1776 G. Semple Building in Water 12 These arches consist of a Semi-circle, and in the Depth of their Archi-Volte is a tenth Part of the light or void of the greater, and an eighth Part of the light of the lesser ones. 1884 F.J. Britton Watch & Clockm. Handbk. 59 See that the ‘lights’ between the wheel teeth and the edge of the roller are equal on both sides when the wheel is locked.
    So, the way I’m reading this, it’s not a hole manufactured for the purpose of admitting light, as in a camera aperture or lens, or in a pinhole camera, but rather a space between loosely fitting or curved parts that light is able to pass through.

  42. marie-lucie says:

    NIjma, you are looking at a word which has a number of technical meanings, which may vary from one technical area to another. Taken without a context, an aperture or clear space could be a consequence of some construction or contraption having parts not fully contiguous with each other, as in your examples, or it could be made intentionally in an otherwise continuous surface.

  43. Comments on the comments:
    @vance: see also http://www.mavmuse.com/
    @empty: vegemite is sort of like cheese?

  44. Vegemite is the Australian name for Marmite.

  45. Siganus Sutor says:

    And termite is the French name for caria.
    And today I learned that “à contre-jour” (backlit) could be said “à contre-lumière”. I’m getting brighter by the day. (Daylight is not something that termites like, though.)

  46. Ancient lights is an easement (better known in civil-law countries as a prescriptive right) consisting of the right to continue to receive sunlight on one’s house (or other building) after at least 20 years of doing so. In particular, it inhibits one’s neighbor from building anything that blocks that sunlight.
    Lights can also be window panes.

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