Bon mot. Literally, it translates to “sweet mouth.”
Don’t worry about it—I didn’t know what it meant either. But I had some free time this afternoon between lunch and 5:00, and I did a little etymological research.
The phrase is French, and it dates back to the days before the most recent French revolution. France was totally going to pot back then. The emperors and their ladies were super rich, and they started the fashion of eating only little candies all day. The rest of the country was super poor, though, shit poor, but they still wanted to act like rich people and eat little candies all day. The poor people couldn’t afford candy, and there sure as shit weren’t little candies lying all over the place. But there was something else lying all over the place: goose poop.
See, one of the main reasons for all of France’s revolutions (besides all the rich people making everybody else feel ugly) was the periodic goose infestations. They were everywhere! And nothing drives a poor person crazy like geese getting up in their huts and stuff. The kings always promised to keep the goose population down, but geese are cyclical, and there’s not a lot you can do about it. So now and again the poor people would revolt because of all the geese, and kill some richies.
In this last goose-infested, pre-revolutionary period, the poor people were feeling jealous over the rich people’s constant candy-eating, and they were driven to desperate measures. They ate the only plentiful, approximately candy-sized objects they had (goose poop). It’s sort of like poor people today who wear pieces of car tires instead of Crocs, or snort salt instead of cocaine. It’s all about image.
So they ate the goose poop, because it was practically free, and it made them feel fancy. But obviously they couldn’t call it “goose poop” unless that’s what the rich people called their candies (it wasn’t), so they thought up a term that sounded—to them—cute and classy: bon bon (literally “sweet-sweet”).
But as much as the poor people liked the cultural cachet that came with being seen eating goose poop, the pastime was not without drawbacks. The main issue was a certain rankness of the mouth that accompanied a day of lying in the shade and eating “bon bons.” It made lengthy discussions between habitual bon bon eaters excruciatingly unpleasant, in fact, and so many people limited their conversations to as few words as possible. In another attempt at classing up a behavior by calling it the exact opposite of what it was, these outbursts were dubbed “bon mots.” And yet, for whatever reason, the expression stuck. We still use it today to describe the clever expressions of rich people, or what someone smart enough to have a twitter account wants to say at any given time. Bon mot.
What I’m getting at is that I now have a twitter account. It wasn’t easy, and it’s not cheap, but I was thinking about how it can sometimes literally be months between my diary entries, and how that’s too long for most people to wait for my “sweet mouths.” And so: twitter.com/DandyChesterton
PS—My cell phone is rotary, so please forgive the typos. They’re a small tradeoff for updates from my bathroom. (Or any bathroom!!)