Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Strass and Spangles

Le Monde, discussing the ascension of Gordon Brown, speaks of

qu'un parlementaire du Labour a appelé le style "strass et paillettes" de Tony Blair.

OK: “the style that one Labour parliamentarian has called,” um, well “fake jewels and spangles.” Actually, it turns out that “strass” is in English dictionaries. Here’s

strass (străs) n.

See paste1 (sense 2).

[German Strass or French stras, both after Joseph Strasser, 18th-century German jeweler.]

Under “paste (sense 2),” we have:

  1. A hard, brilliant, lead-containing glass used in making artificial gems.
  2. A gem made of this glass. Also called strass.

So I could have said “strass and spangles.” But do Labour politicians actually use language like this in public? Does John Prescott? If not, what exactly did he say, and why does it get translated as “strass?”

Fn.: may think it’s English, but MS-Word does not: I keep getting that little red, squiggly line underneath “strass” in my word processor.

Update: Ah, silly me. Turns out there is a lot I have been missing here:

In 1758, a Viennese, Joseph Strasser, developed a type of glass which served for a long time as a substitute for diamond. It could be cut and was, in fact, very similar to diamond in appearance, due to its high refractive index. Even though production and sale was prohibited by the Empress Maria Theresa, this diamond imitation, called strass, reached the European trade via Paris.

--Walter Schumann, Genstones of the World 268 (2006)

Retrieved at Google Books (link)

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