Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Time to get excited.

Here's an antique term that's not only impossible to pronounce, it's impossible to spell, and also impossibly obscure. It's the perfect trifecta (pronounced try FEK tuh)--which is not our word for the day but (in case you're curious) means when a bettor at the track wins by selecting the first three finishers of a race in the correct order of finish.

But trifecta is not our word of the day. It's oeil-de-boeuf (pronounced "er-duh-BURF" and sounds like something you'd say "excuse me" after you did it at a dinner table). But it's actually not a bodily function at all.

It's a term for a small circular or oval zinc window that you see all over Paris, like this one:

Literally, the term oeil-de-bouf means "eye of the bull" and it looks kind of like that, huh?

And here's a pair that we at C. Mariani Antiques fitted with antiqued mirror plates--they make wonderful and architecturally striking mirrors, don't you think?

And while we're on the topic of "burffing," let's also cover "sang de boeuf", pronounced "sahn duh BURF."

This term in French means "blood of the bull" (ick) and describes a deep red color that you often see on porcelain pottery, both new and antique pieces (made in China during the K'ang Hsi period, 1662-1722 and thereafter). It's also sometimes called Lang Yao (oddly, also the name of a girl I dated in high school....).

Here's a sang de boeuf vase:

And here's another example of sang de boeuf, this one a porcelain longneck bottle vase:

And for you really astute Type A people out there (like me) who are wondering "How come oeil-de-boeuf is hyphenated but sang de boeuf isn't?" I have no idea. But if you find out, lemme know.