Let’s look at a word I stumbled across yesterday, vignette.  We will return to the mother sauces shortly. Vignette sounds a lot like vinaigrette, and I wondered, “Could there be a connection between a literary sketch and a salad dressing?”  So, I did some research.

Originally, vignette was a decorative design, a fancy twirling tendril of a grapevine.  Commonly, it would adorn the border of a picture in a book.  Later vignette was used to describe the picture itself, particularly pictures with blurred edges.  Now vignette has become a metaphor.  It describes a short work of writing that, like a picture, captures a snapshot of time. 

Vinaigrette is the diminutive form of vinaigre, vinegar in French.  The diminutive endings in French are –et / –ette so a small book is a livret and little Anne becomes Annette.  This is similar to the –ito and –ita endings in Spanish.  Vinaigre literally means aigre – sour, vin– wine.  So, yes, the answer is that vignette and vinaigrette are both diminutive forms of wine words. How French of them. 


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