Here’s a commercial word from the fine arts, now (March 2008) common in English, that ought to be but is not yet included in either the Oxford English Dictionary or the Unabridged Merriam-Webster. Neither of the two largest English dictionaries can deny the breadth of this word's usage. Giclée is everywhere on the internet at sites where posters and art reproductions are on sale. Artists who depend on their work being reproduced for sale know it and use it daily. Print collectors bandy it about. Giclée appears in the technical manuals of printers. From lips to lips of art-gallery browsers around the world, the word goes awinging. Giclée has been widely used for 15 years, so why dictionary editors have been such obdurate laggards mystifies me. But I do not intend to join them!
While the OED is known for its reluctance to include the technical jargon of current science — an old decision that drastically reduces the great dictionary's usefulness — the Unabridged Merriam-Webster does attempt to keep up with the words of modern science, making giclée's absence quite odd.
A giclée (zhee-KLAY) print is a superb-quality copy of an artwork or photograph made using high-end 8-to-12 color inkjet printing techniques coupled with the use of pigment inks, archival inks that maintain image stability and color permanence better than all other known inks.
Note that, like many newcomers to English, the French pronunciation of an initial /gi/ is retained. This /gi/ sound is similar to the /s/ in the word pleasure.
Giclées typically are printed on large-format special printers from a high-resolution digital scan of the original artwork or photograph. They are printed onto the best media substrates including canvas, fine art papers, and photo-base papers. The color accuracy of the best giclée printing is not exceeded.
Giclée prints adorn collections in most large museums of the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. At recent auctions giclée prints have fetched $10,800 for an Annie Leibovitz photograph, $9,600 for Chuck Close, and $22,800 for a Wolfgang Tillmans.
Precise Origin of Its English Use
The pre-existing French word was borrowed and applied to such prints by Jack Duganne, a California artist and photographer during the 1990s. Thus he did NOT “coin” the word, as some of the more illiterate but artsy-fartsy websites insist. How could he have, my little know-no-word experts, when the French word has existed in print since 1852?
As we have come to expect with any term that might earn a grifter a few dishonest dollars, giclée has a proper meaning and a sleazy, fly-by-night, con-artist meaning too. Thus, on certain websites selling copies of posters and famous paintings, what is sold as a giclée print may be smeary, visual garbage spewed from the meretricious nozzle of some one-hundred-dollar inkjet printer by a crack addict in a New Jersey warehouse who finishes the copied work by sneezing on it.
Apt here are the most under-regarded two words of sales advice ever uttered, the Latin warning: caveat emptor ‘let the buyer beware.’
Is Sincere Sid’s Online House of Photographical Masterworks going to sell you a genuine giclée print of Lewis Hine’s “Powerhouse Mechanic” (seen below) for six bucks? Probably not. So, brain up and don’t get taken to the cleaners like a clueless ninny.
Etymology of the French Word Giclée
Before being applied to the spritz of ink from a computer printer’s inkjet, la giclée was a French noun (in print by 1852 CE) with bountiful explosive meanings.
Une giclée could be: a spurt of blood, a burst of machine-gun fire, a splashing with mud — all from the old French verb gicler ‘to spout, to squirt.’ In French computer lingo, one term for the nozzle of an inkjet printer is gicleur.
In modern French slang, giclée means ‘cum shot’ or ‘spurt of ejaculate,’ not surprisingly, considering that the noun giclée originated as the feminine past participle of the French verb gicler ‘to squirt’ or ‘to spurt.’
All those related words hark back to a French verb that arose apparently from Gallo-Roman roots that meant ‘to jiggle.’ The French etymologist Pierre Guiraud supposed that some Late Latin verb like citare ‘to shake’ had a frequentative form like *cicitare where partial reduplication of the root supplies the added meaning of frequency. Guirand suggests this eventually degraded in spoken Proto-Romance to a form like *cicare ‘to shake repeatedly.’ Such a verb could have produced the known Franco-Provençal ancestors of gicler, namely jicler < gigler < ciscler < cisclar < gisclar.
Giclée Print Advantages
From the admittedly partisan website, Giclée Print Net, Inc., here is a list of giclée print’s advantages:
“Giclee prints are advantageous to artists who do not find it feasible to mass produce their work, but want to reproduce their art as needed, or on-demand. Once an image is digitally archived, additional reproductions can be made with minimal effort and reasonable cost. The prohibitive up-front cost of mass production for an edition is eliminated. Archived files will not deteriorate in quality as negatives and film inherently do. Another tremendous advantage of giclee printing is that digital images can be reproduced to almost any size and onto various media, giving the artist the ability to customize prints for a specific client.”
In the paragraph above, take note of yet another token of a foreign word's full entry into English use: Americans have begun to drop the acute accent on the first /e/ of giclée. The French word is making itself thoroughly at home amidst the welcoming bounty of our English wordstock.
And that’s all I’m printing today about giclées.
2012 copyright © William Gordon Casselman
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A Great New Review of My Latest Book!
October 26, 2011
Welcome to the Enchanted Forest
By WB Johnston
This review is about Bill Casselman’s latest e-book about words: Where a Dobdob Meets a Dikdik: A Word Lover’s Guide to the Weirdest, Wackiest, and Wonkiest Lexical Gems (Kindle Edition)
“Wade Davis, lately of National Geographic, once described each living language as “an old-growth forest of the human spirit.” Once you decide to enter the kleptomaniacal woods of our mother tongue, what you need is more than a tour guide. This is no Disney-fied ‘keep-your-hands-inside-the-car-at all-times’, point A to point B, clear-cutting mining of language. You, here, are in the hands of Sir William of Cassel, a genuine shaman modestly posing as a simple lover of words.
Leave it on your desk at work and trust that someone will riffle through it when you are out at lunch. Shamans are magicians of the highest order. The work of their hands and hearts is game-changing. Or, hey, put it on your Kindle and just feel comforted that you can wander back out into the forest with Bill even in the middle of a boring lecture.
(Casselman replies: Thank you so much, Dr. J., for the kudos. )
Jenni French of San Fancisco, California writes on her blog “My Corner of the Universe” for March 19, 2011:
Casselman, Bill. Where a Dobdob Meets a Dikdik: A World Lover’s Guide to the Weirdest, Wackiest, and Wonkiest Lexical Gems. Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2010.
And the author has quite a way with words, so I have found myself rereading many sentences in this book and slowing my progress through it.
My current favorite sentence is found in a discussion of dog hybrid breed names: “What a revolting concatenation of cutesiness and smarmy nomenclatorial treacle parading under the name of canine hybrid breed names” (19).
I’m sure I’ll have another favorite sentence in a day or two.
This book is just that good and just that entertaining.”
(Author Bill Casselman replies: “Thanks, Jenni!” )
Just a reminder that this book contains my ALL-NEW word esssays, none of which are available anywhere else in print or online.
Cindy Lapeña on her blog “Creativity Unlimited” of July 19 ,2011, writes:
Posted by mimrlith in 365 Things to Look Forward to.
19. Starting a book
To a certified bibliophile like me, a.k.a. bookworm, one of the most exciting things to look forward to is to start reading a new book. In fact, sometimes the prospect of starting to read a new book is so exciting that I have to hurry to finish the book I am currently reading, just so I can start a new one.
If there’s one thing I can’t resist, it’s a book, especially if it promises to be a good one. Of course there are certain books I just won’t touch or be seen with, but at the risk of being hung by my thumbs by fans of such literature, I will not mention any genres in particular. . .
Seeing a book with a title that totally captivates me, like Where a Dobdob meets a Dikdik (yes, that is a book title!) has me so worked up, I just can’t wait to dive in. I imagine all sorts of deliciously fancifully outrageous words with a title like that. Is it obvious? I just love books on words. You won’t believe how many dictionaries I own. Or books on lexical oddities and other lexical explorations. Yes, I am a logophile of sorts. I love the new words I pick up from new books. I relish finding out the meanings of all manner of words and phrases and expressions. What could be more fun?”
(Replies author Bill Casselman: Please scroll to bottom of page or click here to link to a free seven-page preview of my new book, Where a Dobdob Meets a Dikdik.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
Dear Mr. Casselman,
. . . I revisited the paraprosdokian page, and have finally quit laughing again at “Casselman’s Conclusion.” You were not unkind to the “profligate prof-lets.” During my years as an acquisitions editor, in rejection letters I often quoted Prof. Moses Hadas, classicist at Columbia University, who wrote a young scholar in response to having been sent the prof-let’s first book, “Thank you for sending me your book. I will waste no time reading it.”
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