You Don't Say John E. McIntyre writes about language, usage, journalism & arbitrarily chosen subjects.

In a word: embouchure

The Baltimore Sun

Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a relatively obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar, another brick to add to the wall of your vocabulary. This week's word:

EMBOUCHURE

When a marching band was being formed in Fleming County, Kentucky, in the mid-1960s, the vendor supplying the musical instruments took a practiced look at my fat lower lip and suggested that the trombone or baritone horn would be a better choice for me than the trumpet.

I took his advice and over years of playing the euphonium developed a sturdy embouchure, the position of the lips for producing sound from horns and woodwinds. (I commented in a post Saturday that a firm embouchure makes for a better kisser.)

Embouchure (pronounced AHM-boo-shoor) can also refer to the mouthpiece of such an instrument. The original sense of the word is the mouth of a river. We have it in English from the French emboucher, “to flow into,” from bouche, “mouth.”

Example: Meghan Daum, writing on the experience of playing the oboe in “Music Is My Bag in Harper’s, March 2000: “The embouchure puckers the face into an unnatural grimace, an expression well documented in the countless photographs from my childhood that suggest some sort of facial deformity: the lipless girl.”

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