Thursday, May 5, 2011

Word of the day: jalousie

It’s Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day:

jalousie \JAL-uh-see\ noun
1 : a blind with adjustable horizontal slats for admitting light and air while excluding direct sun and rain
2 : a window made of adjustable glass louvers that control ventilation


Etymologists are clear on the source of the word “jalousie” — it’s French for “jealousy” — but the relationship between the emotion and the window treatments originally referred to as jalousies is not something they’ve speculated much about. Is it that those peering out through the original jalousie blinds were jealous of the people outside? Or is it more likely that the jealousy festered in the hearts of those outside, who could see the blinds but not the faces and lives of the people they hid? This excerpt from the October 23, 1766 entry in the Duchess of Northumberland’s diary perhaps provides a clue: “Rows of Seats with Jalousies in Front that [the women] may not be seen.”
Storm doors with glass louvers were common in the Brooklyn of my childhood, where they were called juh-LAU-sees.

You can clear your head of that pronunciation by listening to the Tango Project’s recording of Jacob Gade’s “Jalousie.”

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