Plein Air is a French name for ‘Drawing outdoors in the open air’ (rough translation) and it is a very fashionable artistic pursuit by many artists. You’d think in an English speaking country; we’d refer to the activity in English – ‘I’m painting outside.’ But let’s face it, that doesn’t sound as interesting as to paint ‘Plein Air’. Plein Air sounds a far more exotic endeavour, and it seems even to elevate the fruit of the effort to a more masterful level. In reality, we use foreign words for things and activities to improve their image.
A ‘Croissant’ surely tastes better than a ‘Crescent’ roll, an ‘Armoire’ is ever more interesting a piece of furniture than a ‘Cabinet’ to put clothes in. I’d much rather order food ‘à la carte’ than a bunch of ‘side plates’, and I don’t want to live on a ‘dead end’ but a ‘Cul-de-sac’ will do just fine. So when you see me in the front yard sitting in a folding chair at a TV tray painting, I’m not ‘drawing out in the yard’ it’s ‘Plein Air’. Perhaps it is a good thing to use foreign words to describe stuff, it helps to make life seem a little better.
Until our next mot diatribe (word rant) we bid you au revoir (goodbye).
Accompanying Lino cut courtesy: The Molloy Historical Society