More flounce


Flounces made of words. Dress is duct tape and pages from the telephone book. Source: The Jolis Paons Flounce Dress



Jenny saw snow for the first time a few months ago. She came to Wisconsin from Central America with a dozen other students to enter a two-year program for agricultural development.


The students have had one semester of intensive English; and now, in this second semester, they have a mixture of program classes and English classes. Jenny is in my reading class.


At the beginning of the semester, I asked each student to write personal goals for the class. Be specific, I told them. Don’t just say you want to improve your reading ability; tell me how many books you are going to read each month.


Most of the goals were specific, but a few general ones slipped by. My favorite came from Jenny. “I want more flounce in my English,” she wrote.


Jenny’s first language is Spanish, so when she wrote the word “flounce,” she was pronouncing it as if it were a Spanish word: flow-oon-say. Say that a few times and you’ll see that it is close to how speakers of American English pronounce “fluency.”


A flounce is a sassy ruffle that waves at everyone when it enters the room; it calls attention to the body part it encircles or adorns. A flounce lives to flutter and give fabric a way to flirt. You can live without flounces, but why would you want to?


Adding a flounce requires altering a plain design and sewing on twirls and winks of cloth. The word itself is an alteration of an earlier word “frounce,” which meant “wrinkle.” Word spellings and word meanings are often redesigned to fit the fashion of the day.


I write the way I dress: plain and simple. But sometimes I get dressed up, and then I like a little flounce. And sometimes, I want more flounce in my English. Now and then I like to add words that ruffle around an idea, to braid thoughts together just for show, to stitch in rows of phrases like colorful ribbons that delight the eye, and to hand-sew the  hem of the page, embellishing it with tiny scalloped jokes.


When Jenny turned in her goals, I had to correct “flounce” to “fluency,” but now I think that first goal was a good one. Correct pronunciation and syntax are important, but so is getting more flounce in your English.





41 thoughts on “More flounce

  1. Oh, my goodness, how I *love* your writing. I love the way you think, and the way you move the word-pictures from your head to the page just mesmerizes me.

    Unfortunately, my own problem is that my writing tends to drown in flounce. In my mind’s eye, I can see myself frantically batting down the flounces as they stubbornly pop up in front of me, obscuring my vision. It’s like trying to smooth the ruffles on the dress in your so-appropriate photo. (Right now, I’m envisioning an “I Love Lucy” sketch in which she desperately tries to blend into a line of accomplished ballerinas as her tutu gives her fits…)

    Wonderful piece!

    • I love the images you gave in your comment! I suppose there is the problem of too much flounce, obscuring our vision, and making us prone to tripping.

      We need a new Lucy to dance in that dress.

  2. kkkkatie

    Oh, my, this makes my heart smile…because there is never anything plain and simple about the way you write, Little Sister…because my beautiful daughter (who was counted worldly and unworthy for pursuing fashion design) now lives and writes with fabulous flounce…because my delightful granddaughters can flounce from a room with the most dramatic flair…because I am so thankful that these last years you have allowed me to discover that sassy way your mind tweaks and winks, daring to ruffle feathers and flirt with whimsy as you twirl and flutter from the silly to the profound, leaving me breathless with laughter and undone by tears. You are a wonder!

  3. Coming as a foreigner, who only rarely has the opportunity to speak the language, I’m very aware of that fine difference between fluency and flounce, as you’ve described it… and I too, fear that my use of the language is too pedestrian. Beautifully written post, yearstricken, it gives us something to think about…

  4. this whole paragraph had me practically bouncing in my seat with happy:

    “I write the way I dress: plain and simple. But sometimes I get dressed up, and then I like a little flounce. And sometimes, I want more flounce in my English. Now and then I like to add words that ruffle around an idea, to braid thoughts together just for show, to stitch in rows of phrases like colorful ribbons that delight the eye, and to hand-sew the hem of the page, embellishing it with tiny scalloped jokes.”

    This might be the most favorite thing of yours I’ve ever read. It is perfect. It stands right next to your Feb 5th post, and although they may be polar opposites, they both make my heart expand. I know I’ve said it before, but I’m so accustomed to feeling pangs of jealousy when I read something I wished I had written, that I’m totally confused and surprised when those pangs of jealousy don’t happen whenever I read your words. Instead of wishing I had written the words, all I can do is be happy that I read them.

    In fact, I’m gonna go read them again. and again. thank you.

    • Thank you so much for those words. When I send my words out, I want them to be a small light that helps you find what you are looking for, not a bright light that calls attention to itself and ends up blinding you.

      • that book you’re gonna write?
        this one DEFINITELY goes in the book!

        BTW – that accompanying picture is too perfect for this post! well done!

        (one question mark and three exclamation points – obviously I loved it)

  5. millodello

    Language as an art form. A beautiful concept. Our language is just as backward as the idea that form must follow function. Why? Nicely done.

  6. Caramba ! Just what I needed. There I was, thinking I was just distracting myself from the important persuasive writing task I need to do today with a dalliance with your blog. But no, I was sent – that link between flounce and fluency is just what I needed especially with the link to cross-cultural communication which, curiously coincides with the core of my communication. Flounce and fluency flare into flamenco and my fingers are now snapping and tapping fiercely across the keyboard. (I am waving my arms in the air and tossing my head too – but that’s just me, as ever, taking it all too literally and getting overexcited!)

    One of your very best posts (and that’s high praise!)

  7. I can think of no higher goal in languages than to speak and write them with plenty of Flounce. I plan to take it into serious consideration any time I am writing or editing or speechifying and aspire to greater Flouncing throughout the remainder of my days. And if I can do so while wearing that fabulous phone-book dress, my joy may be complete!

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