by Mary Jackson (March 2009) 

Panache is the name of a perfume by Lentheric that was popular in the Seventies and Eighties. It wasn’t pleasant – a sickly sweet one-noter. Still, it didn’t deserve to be, as I once overheard, mispronounced as “pan-aik”, as if you’d need an aspirin for it. Panache, thus pronounced, must be even worse than toothache, as it would affect every last bit of you.

There is a perfume called Poison, by Christian Dior. A girl on the counter in a shop in Holloway assured me that this was “French for fish”. I didn’t like to argue with this cod-etymology, but stored it up to dine out on later. Fish is not a good smell for a lady’s perfume.

My third perfume in this post is Eau d’Hadrian by Annick Goutal. My sister once asked for this for Christmas, and, being very busy at work, I decided to order it by phone. This turned out to be a real stinker.

Staff who work on perfume counters don’t need to know much French. They don’t need to have read Proust in the original. (Who the hell has?) But they should, as a necessary but not a sufficient condition of their employment, be familiar with the phrase “Eau de…” It seems many are not. Most thought I meant “odour”, which is close. So I painstakingly spelled out the E-A-U, and it was painstakingly keyed in. What threw them was the “d’Hadrian”. “D apostrophe aitch,”  I said. “What?” “All right then, forget the apostrophe,” I said, rather generously, because you can’t forget what you have never known. I decided to improvise and aspirate: “Eau duh Hhhhadrian.” This, too, drew a blank. I gave up, schlepped all the way to the shop, went to the counter and pointed. That worked, and my sister liked it, but next time she’s having Mitsouko.

By the way, if any parfumiers out there have enjoyed the product placement in this post, please click the button on the left and make a donation. It is in your interests – perfume is haram. Parfumiers against Islam has a good smell about it. At least send me some free samples.

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Mary Jackson contributes regularly to The Iconoclast, our Community Blog. Click here to see all her contributions, on which comments are welcome.  



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