a trim waist and an impressive embonpoint

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susanna76

Senior Member
Romanian
Hi there,

Here's a description from Veronica Henry's Marriage and Other Games:
" . . . she still had her figure despite the alcohol consumption: slender legs, a trim waist and am impressive embonpoint, which she flashed to great effect in all the local pubs."

I thought embonpoint meant stoutness. How does that reconcile with a trim waist?
Here's Random House Dictionary:
excessive plumpness; stoutness.
It adds,

Origin: 1655–65; < French, literally, in good condition

But "in good condition" at the time must have meant precisely that, plump.

So what do you make of Veronica Henry's passage?

Thank you!
 
  • PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I make of it that embonpoint is a euphemism for "large pair of breasts."

    (Have you got a picture? :D)
     

    susanna76

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    I thought of that, given the second half of the passage, but then I thought no, the word has a pretty standard meaning. So how is it?
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    This is a recent BrE book, and the word was, ah, thrust into prominence by Sir Peregrine Worsthorne, a newspaper editor, during a libel trial some years ago. He groped for a way of describing a lady whose virtue he could not swear to but whose charms were unmistakable. After some hesitating attempts he came up with the word 'embonpoint'. I suspect for many BrE speakers this is now what it means. It filled a gap, I suppose - we were desperately short of cute terms for, ah, busty substances.
     

    susanna76

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    entangledbank, I didn't get to answer yesterday, but I much appreciated your answer! There's no hope for us non-native speakers . . . :)
     

    susanna76

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Very Belle Epoque. I know the dresses and the look . . . but somehow missed the Charles Dana Gibson and "Gibson Girl" reference. Thank you, pwmeek!!
     

    tedgale

    Senior Member
    English
    Resurrected by Worsthorne but not invented by him. Note James Joyce, Ulysses: "The beautiful woman threw off her sable trimmed wrap, revealing her queenly shoulders and heaving embonpoint"
     

    susanna76

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Wow. I guess it's an easy image, after all, but I really thought the word was of a generic nature and hence impossible to use for one feature only.
     
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