How to Add “Je Ne Sais Quoi” to Your Marketing Content (A-E)

What special something (je ne sais quoi) distinguishes your marketing copy?
What special something (je ne sais quoi) distinguishes your marketing copy?

Do me a favor: Locate your physical dictionary and slowly flip through its pages. After disturbing the (protective?) coating of dust, you’ll notice that words of Anglo-Saxon origin aren’t the only ones occupying the papered real estate.

Sprinkled between entries hailing from the United Kingdom are linguistic offerings of foreign flair. Because I’m a lexicon lover, I appreciate resources that encourage me to experiment with language–the more exotic, the better.

One such resource is Chloe Rhodes’s delightful A Certain “Je Ne Sais Quoi”: The Origin of Foreign Words Used in English. I cruise through the book intermittently for my own amusement.

I now realize its potential as a springboard for adding European verve (or Asian, or Latin, or…) to online and/or printed marketing content. And so, another By All Writes blog-post (mini) series is born.

I’ll follow the book’s alphabetic trail regarding words and phrases that may be “foreign” to you. I’ll also demonstrate how these words could dovetail with your marketing copy.

Be forewarned: You’ll be flying solo when figuring out pronunciations for the book’s entries. Here, this website might help.

Also, don’t fret about your target audience not immediately grasping words from other languages. As long as your copy provides the proper context, intriguing words and phrases are likely to capture attention, luring in prospective eyeballs.

Offer Your Customers an Amuse-Bouche Before They Buy: Does this Gallic phrase sound somewhat familiar to you? Per Ms. Rhodes’s book:

“Something to tickle the taste buds before the arrival of a starter, an ‘amuse-bouche’ will never appear on a menu, as it is complimentary and chosen by the chef.”

Don’t assume usage of this fun expression is limited to restaurants and other food-related businesses.

Open your mind to the possibility of:

At Eye-to-Eye Graphic Design, a complimentary custom emoji is the amuse-bouche before your we design your new logo. Because … who doesn’t love a free sample?

Other “A” words for your marketing consideration:

  • Aficionado (“ardent fan or devotee”–Spanish)
  • Agitprop (“agitation and propaganda”–Russian, from “agitatsii i propagandy“)
  • Arriviste (“a person who has arrived”–French)

Both Men and Women Can Demonstrate Bonhomie When Promoting Their Companies: The next bonbon in our foreign-word sampler is another French confection. Ms. Rhodes informs us:

“‘Bonhomie‘ is the quality of good-natured friendliness … The phrase first appeared in English literature in the mid-1800s and is still used in reference to warm, outgoing people, often men.”

Seeing this word in your marketing brochure or on your landing page is sure to make readers and visitors smile!

Here’s one way to use it:

At Fit Kit’s ladies-only gym, you’ll join for our core-challenging workouts and stay for our trainers’ sincere, bubbly bonhomie.

Other “B” words for your marketing consideration:

  • Baksheesh (“a gift”–Persian)
  • Bijou (“a jewel”–French)
  • Brio (no, not the chain restaurant: “vigor, vivacity”–Italian/Spanish)

Put Your Cognoscenti Capabilities on Display as a Subject Matter Expert: Here’s a word from the land of Modigliani and Vivaldi with marketing potential–cognoscenti. Translated from Italian, it means “those who know.”

According to my friend Chloe Rhodes, this fine word usually refers to art, literature, or fashion experts. But fear not, intrepid marketing professionals:

“It is also used more colloquially [during informal conversation] to describe those who are ‘in the know’ on any subject…”

How does one say “thank you” in Italian? Oh, right–grazie.

We are all in-the-know people with refined taste and judgment now:

Local perfume cognoscenti consider The Aroma Arena the best-smelling shop in South Jersey. Inhale (legally) for yourself!

Other “C” words and phrases for your marketing consideration:

  • Cenotaph (“an empty tomb”–French)
  • Compos mentis (“a composed mind”–Latin)
  • Contretemps (“against the time”–French)

Whip Your Next Marketing Campaign or Event into a Fevered Doolally: Mon Dieu, I wish I’d known about this one years ago. I’m besotted with it!

This doozy of a word was born in the village of Deolali in India. This is where the British army built a military encampment in 1861 (during Queen Victoria’s reign). It functioned as a transit camp for the lads hoping to make their way back to Britannia.

I’ll allow Ms. Rhodes to tell you the rest of the story:

“The wait often lasted for months, and in the boredom and heat many men began to behave oddly. Troops would say, ‘He’s got the Doolally tap,’ of anyone who seemed a bit mad; ‘tap’ translates as ‘fever.'”

Deolali’s transformation (from the Urdu language) into Doolally equates to “camp fever.” Consider inserting the word into your marketing content with fevered glee:

Traveling the world with Eclectic Itineraries is an adventure; just promise you’ll never pull a Doolally on our tour guides.

Other “D” words for your marketing consideration:

  • Denouement (“an untying,” but it really means resolving a story line by tying up looses ends–French)
  • Diktat (“something dictated”–German–promise me you’ll try it)
  • Dilettante (“one who delights”–from the Italian “dilettare”)

The First Rule of Marketing Club–an Ersatz Product Cheapens Your Reputation: You expected me to close this post with a French bon mot, didn’t you?

Sorry to disappoint, but my final entry is German. Even better, it’s a middling substitute for the real thing.

Per the esteemed Chloe Rhodes, our Lady of the Lexicon:

“This comes from ‘ersetzen,’ which means to ‘replace,’ and in Germany the term is straightforward; in sports an ‘Ersatzspieler‘ is a ‘substitute player.'”

Harmless enough, but the word has earned a bad reputation across the centuries. Perhaps you’ve heard of the dreadful ersatz beverage consumed by many coffee-loving Confederate soldiers (and citizens) during the Civil War…

And yet, I sense this word’s clever marketing potential. When proclaiming your business’s product or service as the real deal, try this:

What, us replace our beloved 100-year-old cookie recipe with cheaper, ersatz ingredients? Heck no–we can’t even pronounce ersatz!

Other “E” words for your marketing consideration:

  • Embonpoint (“in good condition, fleshy”–from the French “en bon point“)
  • Ennui (“boredom”–French)
  • Erratum (“mistake”–Latin)


Do you ever experiment with foreign words and phrases as a way to differentiate your marketing content from the madding crowd? What foreign expressions do you think the advertising and marketing cognoscenti abuse quite shamelessly?

Of the suggestions offered here, which might you use, and which do you consider strictly verboten?

Should I continue this miniseries via “How to Add Je Ne Sais Quoi to Your Marketing Content (F-J)? Would you read it, or would you consider it a bit ad nauseam? Serious replies only (in the language of your choice)…

Lori Shapiro is the owner of By All Writes LLC, a business-to-business (B2B) company in Marlton, New Jersey, that plies its trade via copywriting, editing, and other content-marketing services. She revels in shielding her clients from the time-consuming pain of writing their own print or web marketing and promotional copy.

Please call Lori Shapiro of By All Writes LLC at 856-810-9764 (or e-mail her via to schedule a gratis 20-minute consultation that will propel you toward resolution of your current content dilemma…

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