• soufflé •
su-flay • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A dish made light and fluffy by stiffly beaten egg whites and containing other ingredients for flavor, such as cheese, fish, or fruit.
Notes: We have left the French accent mark on the final [e] to remind you where this word came from and that it hasn't been used in English long enough to take off its hat. In fact, the hat on the E also stands to remind us that the final [e] is not silent, as it is in so many English words; it is pronounced. (It is not pronounced in souffle, the healthy murmuring or breathing sound heard in the tummy of an expectant mother.)
In Play: We all love food metaphors, so it is a puzzlement why this tasty item hasn't entered our metaphorical vocabulary in senses like, "Her brain is a soufflé that always falls far short of its mark." Remember that a soufflé is a dish that puffs up and if jiggled or punctured, collapses: "Faye Slift's whole haughty persona is nothing but a soufflé of ideas would collapse if you stamped your foot at her." However, if you prefer James Beard on the subject, he opined, "The only thing that will make a soufflé fall is if it knows you are afraid of it."
Word History: This word came into English from French only around the turn of the 19th century. It is the past participle of souffler "to puff up", itself from Latin sufflare with the same meaning, composed of sub "(from) below" + flare "to blow." Latin flare comes from Proto-Indo-European *ble-/blo "to blow" which also went into English blow and German blasen "to blow, puff". The same root is found in the word bladder, something our Scottish friends like to blow into to make music. The Latin word flare also underlies English flavor, something you can taste once you've blown over food invested with it until the food is cool enough to eat.
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