What’s That Sillage?

What’s that smell? No, not the stuff in the silo (silage)—that distinct odor of fermenting corn or hay—but that lovely, faint, lingering scent …



(n.) the scent that lingers in air, the trail left in water, the impression made in space after something or someone has been and gone; the trace of someone’s perfume.

French, literally, wake/trail

A poetical word, to be sure, when romancing over a love long-gone.

But perhaps you find sillage in other places and spaces …

… like when you pull up in your car to pick up your children from school and they sense the lingering aroma of the cheeseburger you wolfed down a moment earlier. Suspicion arises.

That kind of sillage … not so poetical.

Or when you move into a new house and smell the persistent bouquet of a woman’s perfume. But only at midnight. On Halloween.

Thanks to that type of sillage, you now know to pack up and move once again.

How about the sillage of your grandmother’s hand lotion, your dad’s motor oil, or the scent of a new baby’s scalp?

Only the nose knows.

Photo by Angela Andriot via Wikimedia Commons

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  1. BB king says:

    Ah, the sillage of my “aunt’s” ( she was a foster mother to me in my childhood through my 20’s) signature scent. Mitsouko by Guerlain, a 1920’s scent, very distinctive. I inherited her bottles of perfume when she passed and wear it be reminded of the love that she gave. It never fails to make me happy.

    My signature scent is Shalimar and I actually lived where the famed Shalimar Gardens are in Srinigar Kashmir, India where I was a teacher.
    see: http://www.srinagaronline.in/city-guide/shalimar-garden-of-srinagar

    Daddy wore ” Old Spice ” his entire life- an a whiff of that brings back his hugs.
    Scent stirs the memories better than any other of the senses. Diane Ackerman’s ” A Natural History of the Senses” waxes lyrical about Scent in particular. Be sure to read this evocative book

    • Karlyne says:

      Perfume bottles used to be everywhere, but I rarely see them in thrift stores these days (maybe they’ve all been collected!). Your post reminded me of English Leather (all the cool boys wore it), and the little blue bottles of Evening in Paris. If I were to get a bit of sillage from them, I’d recognize them at once!

  2. Krista says:

    I have a few things that I smell and they bring back memories. None of which involve purfume. My dads truck has a very distinct smell, not sure what causes it, but every time I catch a whiff it automatically takes me back to my childhood when he would take and pick me up from school or when we would go to lunch at the park. Another smell I remember is the strong smell of spices from when I visited your farm many many years ago. Every time my family opened food from your place it took me back to our visit and making “stew” with Emil!! Crazy how I can smell both now just thinking about it!

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What’s Your [Percontation] Point?


What is it?

No, I’m not suffering from a bout of sudden-onset backwardsness.

But, it is a backwards question mark. A percontation point, if you will.

When would you use such a thing? Oh, far more often than you might think …

For instance: when feeling a bit snappy, a might peckish, a tad sarcastic, or a wee bit snarky.

It’s something called irony punctuation, and it’s a form of notation used to denote sarcasm.

Um, yes, please.

No need to insert an eye-rolling emoji, a #sarcasm, or an explanation for your text in the form of parentheses any longer.

You may think that this is a newfangled, modern-day addition to our English language and punctuation, but you’d be wrong. The percontation point was invented by English printer Henry Denham in the 1580s. And we thought we were the most sarcastic of the generations … all hail, Grandad Snark!

You can use the percontation point (sometimes called the irony mark) as you see fit. In a way, it’s used to sneakily admit there is more to your writing than meets the eye. A sarcastic layer of meaning might have been missed the first time through.

Essentially, it’s a grammar tool used to make the not-so-perky reader feel even less perky. Now, if I could only find it on my keyboard. #percontation point!

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  1. Karlyne says:

    Yes! I want it on my keyboard!

  2. BB king says:

    Wow , that is the most useful thing I have learned in ages ! I am normally a fairly sarcastic person, in my humor. .I know i will use this alot

  3. Krista says:

    Why is this not on keyboards or more well known?! I would be using it all the time! Looks like it’s time to start a new trend.

  4. Marti says:

    so, it seems there are many of us who use sarcasm regularly lol

  5. Karlyne says:

    I just wanted to let you know that the grandgirl has added the percontation point to her list of punctuation marks to study. That should impress just about everybody we know!

  6. Judith Lickteig says:

    As my dgd would say, “I yuv it.!” Yes! I would love this on my keyboard! This post was an educational high of my day. Thank you, MaryJane!

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