• chinoiserie •
Pronunciation: shin-wahz-ree • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: Anything reflecting Chinese culture: Chinese artifacts, designs, artistic styles, behavior.
Notes: If you choose today's Good Word keep in mind that its French spelling and pronunciation give it away as rather artificial and affected. However, it is true that English offers no unaffected alternative. Just be careful of the pronunciation.
In Play: Chinoiserie may refer to things from China or things done in a Chinese style: "After her cruise up the Yangtze River, Gilda Lilly redecorated her apartment from top to bottom in chinoiserie." Today's word may be pluralized since it can refer to individual objects: "Haifa Luten likes to serve her Chinese dinners on a hodgepodge of porcelain chinoiseries she collected on her trips to the Far East."
Word History: This Good Word, as mentioned above, is French, the noun from the adjective chinois "Chinese" from Chine "China". Chine, China, and similar words found in European languages were borrowed by those languages from the Persian and Sanskrit word cinah "Chinese people". These languages picked up the word from Chinese Ch'in (originally Qin), the name of the Chinese dynasty (221-206 BCE) that established the first centralized imperial government in China. Much of the Great Wall of China was built during the rule of this dynasty. (Today we thank Suzanne Williams for a word that has traveled halfway around the Earth and whose ancestry goes back more than 2200 years.)