Bricolage

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Dr. Goodword
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Bricolage

Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon Mar 05, 2018 11:25 pm

• bricolage •


Pronunciation: bri-kê-lahzhHear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A creation from a diverse range of available materials.

Notes: Today's Good Word waded into English in the 1960s, so recently it hasn't even lost its French pronunciation. It is now used for everything from the creative uses of leftovers, 'culinary bricolage' to the cobbling together of disparate computer parts 'technical bricolage'. Someone who creates bricolages of any sort is a bricoleur, if a man, or bricoleuse, if a woman.

In Play: The meaning of today's word is a creation from mishmash of available materials: "Paige Turner's new book is less a novel and more a bricolage of her earlier short stories." The meaning of the English word may have been influenced by collage: "Some have said that Heidegger's philosophy is just a bricolage of the thoughts of others."

Word History: French social anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss compared the artistic process to the work of a handyman who solves mechanical problems with whatever materials are available. He referred to that process of making-do as bricolage. Bricolage was borrowed from French. It was derived from the verb bricoler "to putter about", which also produced bricoleur "jack-of-all-trades", used today in English in the sense of a creator of bricolages. The French verb came from bricole "trifle" or "catapult", borrowed from Italian briccola "catapult". Italian apparently borrowed the word from Old High German brechen "to break". The semantic shift from "catapult" to "trifle" may have resulted from the association with the ammunition used by a catapult or the pieces left by a catapult assault. (Let's now thank Brian Johnson of Tokyo for recommending today's rising star of a Good Word.)
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Re: Bricolage

Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon Mar 12, 2018 7:43 am

Chris Stewart of South Africa sent me this comment on bricolage which I thought we all might enjoy:

From my experience in Belgium and France, “the” bricolage would mean the DIY store. For this, as well as if you were to engage in bricolage, you would in conversation use the contraction brico. If I recall correctly, you would also refer to a handyman contractor as a brico.

It did occur to me that bricolage may have some common origin with the English brick, and indeed this does seem to be the case
https://www.etymonline.com/word/brick : brick (n.) "rectangular block of artificial stone (usually clay burned in a kiln) used as a building material," early 15c., from Old French briche "brick," probably from a Germanic source akin to Middle Dutch bricke "a tile," literally "a broken piece," from the verbal root of break (v.).

Of a brick-shaped loaf by 1735. Meaning "a good, honest fellow" is from 1840, probably on notion of squareness (as in 'fair and square'), though in English brick and square when applied to persons generally are not meant as compliments. 'Brick wall' in the figurative sense of "impenetrable barrier" is from 1886. Brick-and-mortar (adj.) as figurative of "physically real" is from 1865. To do something like a ton of bricks "vigorously" is from 1929 (earlier 'thousand of bricks', 1836), probably from the notion of how hard such a weight of them falls or hits.

Jethro Tull immortalised the phrase “thick as a brick” in their album Aqualung, in which acqualung was not referring to SCUBA equipment, but pleurisy.

Although pleurisy may literally mean a pain in the side, I just had to know whether it had anything to do with crying, from the French pleurer (to cry), due to the liquid aspects.

I even wondered if cry might somehow be derived from lacrymal. So far, I have uncovered nothing particularly compelling. Nevertheless, many a DIYer has become lachrymose when his or her brico goes awry.

One might be tempted to cry out “bless you my child” (or some other suitable expression), as the hammer descends on one’s nail (fingernail, that is).

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call_copse
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Re: Bricolage

Postby call_copse » Mon Mar 12, 2018 8:32 am

"...though in English brick and square when applied to persons generally are not meant as compliments"

In fact if you read Enid Blyton, as I did when young, 'you're a brick' meant exactly the same as above, a solid, reliable person. To be fair it's not a commonplace slang nowadays, though I could revive it :D
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Re: Bricolage

Postby Philip Hudson » Fri Mar 16, 2018 10:48 pm

One of my childhood friends grew up to be a famous bricolage artist. He used a cutting torch and a welding machine to create his art. As a youth he carved and painted realistic statues and pictures. In his bricolage phase he met with great success but I had a hard time appreciating it. But every "sculpture", however bizarre, had somewhere in it a small lifelike statue of the Virgin and the Christ Child.
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