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Exploring exotica with Christine Lovatt


By Christine Lovatt

The word exotic comes from the Greek exotikos, literally 'from the outside'. So if we had visited Ancient Greece, they may have described us as exotic, because they used it to mean ‘foreign’.

Exotic plants and birds come from another land, but exotic also means ‘attractively strange’, or maybe that should be ‘strangely attractive’. (I’m not talking about exotic dancers, which is another thing altogether!)

Foreign words add a little spice to our language, and some of my favourite words have an exotic ring to them, such as alfresco, frangipani, or chiaroscuro.

Place names like Stromboli, Honiara and Avalon or just about any town in France or Italy seem to conjure up their own magic, especially when pronounced with the local accent. Fictitious places like Shangri La, Xanadu, El Dorado and Valhalla can also cast a spell.

The Polynesian languages are rich in vowels, which is why Fijian place names, like Malololailai or Savusavu, sound like music to the ear.

I love the sound of Japanese phrases, ever since I heard zaa zaa which means the sound of rain. The Japanese for butterfly is chouchou, which sounds delightful so I researched ‘butterfly’ in other languages. They all merit repeating - mariposa in Spanish, papillon in French, farfalla in Italian, schmetterling in German and de vlinder in Dutch.

Some words are just fun to say, like vuvuzela, an African trumpet that sounds like an elephant roar.

Leave a comment below and tell me your favourite exotic words.

Meanwhile, Elysian Mystifying or…

Happy Puzzling!


4 Responses to

Exploring exotica with Christine Lovatt

kragzy said:
May 20, 2011 at 1:08 PM

My father-in-law was Dutch and often used a word to compliment someone's home: "huiselijk". I understand it to mean homely, warm, comforting and peaceful. My wife's ability to beautifully appoint our home comes from her desire for huiselijkheid. (I hope I have the spelling correct - happy to be advised if not!)

May 20, 2011 at 6:46 PM

Well, Christine, my favourite exotic word is CHOCOLATE! To quote Wikipedia: The word "chocolate" entered the English language from Spanish. How the word came into Spanish is less certain, and there are multiple competing explanations. Perhaps the most cited explanation is that "chocolate" comes from Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, from the word "chocolātl" (etc). Wherever it comes from, it can be very "exotic" in flavour and form. I love it!

Xrosie said:
July 29, 2011 at 8:20 AM

Exotic means to me ORCHIDS, as they are about the only plants that flower where I live, in a shade house. I also love exotic foods, will try anything once

shazmera said:
August 21, 2011 at 7:42 PM