Des lustres et des lustres…
day lew-stray day LEW-struh. Click below to hear this.
Skipping right over the usual English translation line, because that’s what this post is all about!
Le lustre has three different meanings in English! And two of them are old-fashioned and really not in use anymore. A word with a history!
First off, in no particular order, le lustre is a word in current use meaning luster (you guessed that, didn’t you!), glow, or shine. It can refer to anything from the face of a happy person to an antique vase.
Secondly, un lustre is an outmoded word for a chandelier. An oddity, because nowadays a chandelier provides its light by electricity, while the word chandelier (yes, it’s a French word too) means a candle-holder, which is the aspect that is really outmoded. A chandelier, electric or no, still provides un lustre to a room (especially with judicious use of the dimmer switch).
Finally, and seemingly totally unrelated, un lustre is a literary (read: highfalutin) word for a five-year period. The origin seems to be a Latin word for a celebration of some sort that took place every five years. The dictionary does not help me out on the nature of that celebration, so I’m going to guess that maybe it involved the glow of a bonfire. I’m hoping the only thing burning was logs; I confess I have an aversion to human sacrifice.
In this use, you might say something like Ça fait des lustres que je ne te vois pas! I haven’t seen you in ages! As for the tone of the conversation, it’s a little like saying Four score and seven years ago…. (Quick: how many years is that?)
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