To follow up on my recent thoughts on the word ‘Chiaroscuro’, I thought to bring up a word that English seems to lack. Namely, the French ‘descente’: the original word can be used in the way that I am familiar with it, and Finno-Ugric (Estonian certainly and probably Finnish as well), Baltic (Latvian and Lithuanian), and Slavic (Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Serbian to name a few) languages use a localised version of this ‘descente’ to signify what is known in English as a ‘landing operation’/’invasion’.

My problem with this? It’s not really the level of a problem, but more the question of elegance and conveyed meaning: namely, I find the ‘descente’-tree words far more elegant and stylish to describe a complex military operation than the constructed ‘landing operation’ or ‘invasion’ which is highly unspecific in what it looks like and what it does.

Indeed, what I find is that ‘landing operation’ is not entirely accurate because an actual landing operation would be far more than the landing — the logistics and naval/aerial forces involved play a huge part. This word-pair seems to suggest that we’re talking of a simple arrival at some undetermined location.

‘Invasion’ is nondescript in whether we’re using the sea or land: land invasion could hardly be considered a ‘landing’. Likewise, there is little to no chance of someone trying to say ‘an aerial invasion’. ‘Naval invasion’ works rather well but I would shy away from using invasion unless we had a proportionally relevant number of soldiers included. There is also the difference in goals: invasion is meant to occupy territory while it would sound a bit odd in some other contexts.

‘Descente’, on the other hand, also contains the auxiliary forces concerned in making the landing happen — be they planes or ships. It is specific to planes and ships — in other words objects one could ‘descend’ from, and there’s no information conveyed about the objective of the event. In other words, the French word sums up the complex situation in a simpler way.

What’s not to be liked?

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