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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Sun Jul 09, 2006 11:42 pm

• moue •

Pronunciation: mu • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun (See our new "Language in the News" section at

Meaning: A slightly pouting expression used to indicate doubt or disbelief or, occasionally, to flirt.

Notes: Today's word is an easy one, so easy, in fact, that any cow can say it. It may also be spelled mow and pronounced [mo], for the expression to make a mow is a much earlier version of the same word (see Word History). You may also use it as a verb, when you moue at someone. Just remember to keep all those vowels straight if you use the modern pronunciation (the one above).

In Play: Basically, the moue is the facial expression accompanying pouting: "When I told Billy that he could not have dessert until he finished his vegetables, he made a little moue and left the table." However, girls sometimes use it as a hint to boys: "Myrtle batted her eyelids and made a slight moue as she asked Lance if he were not taking her to the dance."

Word History: Today's Good Word was taken from Middle French mouwe or moe from the Old French phrase faire le moe "to grimace in derision or discontent". At first it was pronounced [mo] and usually was even spelled mow. However, in the 19th century it began to appear with the original French spelling (moue) and the same meaning. The first recorded instance of the new spelling was in Thackeray's The History of Pendennis (1849): "She looked at her face and made a moue in the glass." The French probably borrowed the word from Middle Dutch mouwe "grimace" which may (or may not) be related to Modern Dutch mouwe "muscle". (Certainly no one at alphaDictionary made a moue at Peggy Nielsen's recommendation of this Good Word for our series.)
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Postby Brazilian dude » Mon Jul 10, 2006 11:49 am

It must be related to Spanish mueca, grimace.

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Postby Perry » Tue Jul 25, 2006 10:22 am

Unlike that famous 'puh' or 'buff' sound made by French people (with a pushing out of air past the lower lip) instead of shrugging their shoulders, you don't have to be born in France to do the moue.
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Postby frank » Tue Jul 25, 2006 3:59 pm

Dr. Goodword wrote:The French probably borrowed the word from Middle Dutch mouwe "grimace" which may (or may not) be related to Modern Dutch mouwe "muscle".

As far as i know, Modern Dutch 'mouwe' doesn't exist. I checked some recent and older Dutch dictionaries, but i couldn't find it. I also tried to look it up in some dialect dictionaries, but without success.

The Middle Dutch dictionary does mention it indeed. Middle Dutch 'mouwe' is thought to be related to (Modern, Middle?) German 'mauwe', which means something like 'fat meet', but this is not a 100% sure.

In Middle Dutch, 'mouwe' can only be found in the expression 'die mouwe maken' ("ofra. faire le moe; fra. faire la moue, faire la mine ou grimace ...eng. to make mowes (Shakespeare)".


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