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Mamamouchi

15 Feb 2017

 

The word mamamhouchi popped up on our Twitter feed the other day, defined as “someone who believes themselves to be more important than they really are.” 

 

It totally sounds like a totally made up word—for the very good reason that it is.

 

The French playwright Molière invented it, seemingly at random, as a suitably magnificent-sounding title bestowed on one of the characters in his 1670 comedy Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, “The Bourgeois Gentleman, or the Would-Be Noble”.

 

The word was so magnificent, however, that it was too good to leave alone. Soon other writers had adopted it and began using it as a fanciful, exotic-sounding title—and in particular one bestowed on someone who doesn’t deserve it, or who matches the pomposity of the word with appropriately pompous behaviour.

 

As the Oxford English Dictionary now defines it, mamamouchi is not only “a pompous-sounding title” but also “a person assuming such a title—a pretender to elevated dignity, viewed as an object of derision.”

 

(And you can provide your own example of that.)

 

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