Word of the day: milieu


I found this word in a book I’m reading (A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore). The people in the main character’s hometown pronounce it as ‘miloo’. I went online to see how it’s really pronounced.

Merriam-Webster gave me a very odd pronunciation, making it sound like mill-yur. I didn’t believe that so I double checked with Dictionary.com, where the pronunciation voice said ‘mil-yoo’. It sounded more French-y (after all, it is a French word) when I listened to it.

I like saying it. Milieu, milieu, milieu. I’m glad I came across it too. Milieu (there I go again) means your surroundings, environment, setting, particularly a cultural one. Ask.com gives this example: “Marcy felt most comfortable in an academic milieu, surrounded by other intellectuals and established formalities.”

Speaking of an academic milieu, I’m heading back to Bona’s tomorrow. It’s a week early, but I feel more at home there. I love that everything is within five minutes. I have easy access to laundry, food, heat, internet – everything I need! Plus, I like the challenge of school. I like being motivated and working toward something. In Holland, I don’t have the drive to complete anything.

In A Gate at the Stairs, I found a passage I relate to.

“At home in Delacrosse (replace with Holland) my place in the world of college and Troy (replace with St. Bonaventure) and incipient adulthood dissolved and I became an unseemly collection of jostling former selves. Snarkiness streaked through me voice, or sullenness drove me behind a closed door for hours at a time.”

Aimee and I made a snow turkey for Thanksgiving 2008. This is the front of our house. The closest I got to snow this break was shoveling it off the driveway this morning. The snow turkey is a good memory, though.

When I come home, it’s like I am a child again, like I should be doing homework or planning my next attempt to sneak out. I’m no longer exposed to people. If I want to see my high school friends we have to make an effort, which fortunately, we did.

Memories are more accessible at home. Everything I used to be, I become again. My fresh, college way of living disappears temporarily but struggles desperately to surface. Home life grows stale while college life slowly reemerges.

I was extra snarky this break. And very sullen. I spent most of my time in my room. But the ambitious side of me begged for me to leave my room and do something. Only, there’s no where to go.

My college lifestyle is imprinted on me, and it conflicts with the Lindner’s lifestyle.

When it comes down to it, I’m leaving a cold, isolated milieu in Holland for a warm, bustling one in St. Bonaventure.

Published by Emilee Lindner

I’m a writer, cat fancier and lover of all things autumn.

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