I love these seven words from our memories that are hardly used unless you have been lucky enough to eavesdrop on a conversation between two or three Southern belles from another time. Old in wisdom, but young at heart, these women”s mothers rode in carriages along brick city streets. Listen up, because the words these matriarchs in tweed suits, pearls and arched brows drop are the ones too special to be forgotten.
It was difficult to select only a few of my favorites, and I think you will concur that, much like the train whistling through the night here in historic Columbus, they are constant reminders of a South worth remembering.
A doyenne is a genteel lady who I enjoy with a captivated audience hanging on every word. She knows the history of our towns, volunteers for charity because her mother and her mother before her did.
A true doyenne commands respect without even trying. You know her, always has an embroidered handkerchief in her purse, asks for a good Chardonnay at dinner and never wears white after Labor Day. A doyenne has lived long enough to know that Southern women only grow hyacinths and roses for the joy of sharing bouquets with neighbors. God love a doyenne.
My second word might be modeled by a doyenne — the chignon. Some refer to it as a French twist, but I favor the chignon for its understated elegance and simplicity. The chignon has adorned many young ladies, whether down the aisle of a storybook wedding or at a soiree. It”s true this classic hairstyle is the best escort. Usually teased, combed to one side and tucked into a tight roll, the chignon shall never be a thing of the past. It is often reinvented by today”s modern woman.
Hyacinths are the quintessential flowers of choice for old Southern gardens and the third word we must not forget. Their fragrance intoxicates from window boxes or a bouquet on an antique dining room table that would be simply undressed without hyacinths for color. I have even known a few ladies named Hyacinth. Confident, unique and stunning, these ladies were just like the flower we must continue to love.
The list continues
Fourth, a soiree sounds much more exciting than just a plain old party. Throw in some live jazz, white dinner jackets and a few doyennes with chignons, and it”s a soiree I want to attend. A soiree can be any gathering where music fills the air, dancing into the wee hours is a prerequisite, and libation is simply a given. I hope most of my readers have the pleasure to be on the guest list of a soiree very soon. If you need a date, just give me enough notice to shake the dust off my tuxedo and bow tie.
Another word as engraved into our minds as drive-in movies, Coca-Cola in the little bottles and penny loafers, is the bustiere. Yes, my mother had one in her wardrobe, and I suspect yours did too. For most, wearing this feminine undergarment was a rite of passage, and for others it was saved for the honeymoon.
Victoria”s Secret has made it a household word again, and I think it”s a beautiful word indeed. Nothing shows off my next favorite word like a bustiere … the décolletage.
Just writing it makes me blush, but it is a beautiful word to say and to hear. Granted, there are a dozen less than pretty words for the décolletage, but I hope we preserve the original well into the future. It still makes old men swoon and little boys giggle.
One more word etched in my mind from an early age is rouge. It has often been referred to as blush or cheek color, but my grandma and my mama today will not leave home without a bit of rouge. It is a special word that makes me smile thinking of my busy mama, car keys in hand, purse dangling from an elbow, pausing to apply some rouge before leaving the house to go anywhere. Women still walk up to the makeup counter and ask for it. It makes me smile, and I want this word to be with us forever.
The last and final word I want to bottle up and save for a lifetime is lovely. It is overused, but the moments in life where this word finds itself appropriately positioned are few and far between. Rare are the occasions worthy of such an extraordinary adjective. For example, a young debutante cascading down a spiral staircase in a white satin gown might inspire her daddy to remark, “lovely,” or two women wearing rouge and sipping tea from fine bone china on a porch lined with hyacinths might just be lovely.
The next time you feel nostalgia for some of these beautiful old words and a passerby asks, “How are you today?” … you have permission to respond, “Just lovely.” And maybe like the sounds of the train serenading us to sleep every night on the Southside, these words will continue to blow in and out of our lives like true old friends.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.
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