Flair

Heute habe ich einen Leckerbissen anzubieten: einen Gasteintrag von meinem guten Kumpel (und nebenbei gesagt, einem ausgezeichneten Übersetzer), Tony Mellor-Stapelberg. Er schreibt dieses Mal auf Englisch. Aber das dürfte für Leser meines Blogs kein Problem sein. Enjoy!

On 1st February the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung published an interview with Kurt Masur, in which he said:

“Ich mochte den Kuppelsaal [im Hannover Congress Centrum] von vornherein. Er hat ein ganz besonderes Flair.

I wonder how my colleagues would translate that last sentence.

During my earlier years in Germany I was quite sure that I wouldn’t use “flair” like that in English. My Chambers Dictionary defines it as: “intuitive discernment; a faculty for nosing out; popularly and loosely, a natural aptitude.” I only use “flair” followed by “for”: “He has a flair for languages”, or at the very least in sentences in which the thing that the person has a flair for is implied: “He has artistic flair” (= a flair for things artistic); “she dresses with flair” (she has a flair for dressing well). Certainly, for me, only a person could have flair (or rather, a flair for something); things or places couldn’t have flair; they had “atmosphere” or “a certain feeling about them”, etc.

In the meantime, I have seen so many documents with sentences like “The Maschsee in the summer has a Mediterranean flair”, that I have started to doubt my own judgment. And when I look in other dictionaries I find, in each case as a second meaning following the one about natural aptitude or words to that effect, the following:

  1. Collins Cobuild from as long ago as 1987: “Flair is the ability to do things in an original, interesting and stylish way: ‘He has flair, which his party desperately needs’.
  2. Chambers 21st Century, 1996: “stylishness, elegance: ‘He always dresses with flair’.”
  3. NODE, 1998: “stylishness and originality: ‘She dressed with flair’.”
  4. Websters (1996, but badly revised from an earlier edition): “smartness of style, manner etc.: ‘Their window display has absolutely no flair at all’.”

The second and third of these would be covered by what I wrote above:  “dress with flair” = “have a flair for dressing well.” It is noticeable that only the fourth, American, source gives an example that has a thing and not a person as the subject. So is it perhaps an Americanism that reached German before it reached British English?

Does anyone have a newer British dictionary? I wanted to buy the new edition of Chambers last August, but although it was officially published and had been reviewed in the papers, neither Smith’s nor Waterstones had it – and the man at Waterstones looked in his computer and told me they didn’t have it anywhere in the country!

So: does the Kuppelsaal (the “Cupola Hall”, as I like to call it if my customer will let me get away with it!) have flair? Or atmosphere? Or what?

Eine Antwort to “Flair”

  1. MartinC Says:

    erm, a certain je ne sais quo, perhaps?

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