I recently started learning French and am confused by its pronunciations. The main problem being that the words never seem to sound the way they're written - isn't what it seems to be! (I know English isn't any better, but criticisms of my observations are safely off-topic here!) I need a word which indicates this deceptiveness/inconsistency while not sounding too negative. Because I still am fascinated by French.

For example, here's something I'd like to say: Oh french, you ____________ beauty!

So it really cant be too negative, unless you think the following word "beauty" makes for an amusing/endearing oxymoron. Then if the overall sentence doesn't sound too negative, I'm willing to accept any word.

  • 1
    "Devious" seems to fit.
    – user195888
    Sep 19, 2016 at 12:02
  • @Pete Definition of devious seems to fit the bill.. But with no context, if I just say "French, you devious beauty" will the reader understand that I'm saying so because French words aren't what they seem to be? Given that they at least know I'm talking of the French language.
    – insanity
    Sep 19, 2016 at 12:08
  • @insanity IMHO, it is highly probable that readers might understand that you are appreciating a feature that is attractive in French language which in turn is misleading that only people who are good in the language would be able to understand the differences, when devious beauty is used. Sep 19, 2016 at 12:15
  • have you considered maybe using the word "rascal" instead of "beauty"? I think it would be an easier word to modify to show deceptiveness and still has the connotation you're going for
    – gstats
    Sep 19, 2016 at 14:21
  • That would be something very like deceptive if the whole idea wasn't drivel… Sep 23, 2017 at 2:09

5 Answers 5


The Oxford Dictionaries site offers as a definition of "inconstant" the following: "Frequently changing; variable or irregular". Synonyms suggested include fickle, wayward, capricious, volatile, flighty, erratic, mutable, mercurial, and irregular. Any one of these could fill the blank in your sentence.


If you want to emphasize that you are frequently tricked into using the wrong pronunciation, perhaps cozening. It's a fairly rare, old-fashioned word that sounds friendly and cozy, but to cozen actually means

  1. a. trans. To cheat, defraud by deceit.

  2. a. To deceive, dupe, beguile, impose upon.

  3. To beguile or cheat into, up, etc.; †to induce by deception to do a thing.

("cozen, v." OED Online. Oxford University Press, September 2016. Attestations and some additional sub-definitions omitted.)

As suggested by the third definition, cozen and cozening often have connotations of seductiveness, which seems especially apropos for something that is fascinating and beautiful but leads you into error. For example:

No courtesan! Hast thou deceived me then? Tell me, thou wicked-honest cozening beauty! Why didst thou draw me in with such a fair pretence, why such a tempting preface to invite, and the whole piece so useless and unedifying? (Aphra Behn, The Feigned Courtesans, originally staged 1679)

I never did believe in your false face,/I knew you well in every other thing,/But your fine eyes shone with so bright a grace,/Your features were so sweet and cozening,/That to your promises my hopes would cling;/My soul believed in them; and for this I die. (Alistair Moffat, Tuscany: A History, 2011; translating from Italian)

He was in a manner tricked, coney-caught, a court-dor to a cozening cotquean. (Anthony Burgess, Nothing Like the Sun, 2013)

So, in your phrase:

Oh French, you cozening beauty!

Note that this is a fairly archaic term; although it is still in use, it definitely has an old-fashioned feel, and some of the recent usages which I've seen don't appear to understand the connection to deception. For your purposes, these facts may be somewhat in the term's favor, as they may somewhat mitigate the negative connotations.

For a more alliterative phrase, beguiling beauty has a nice ring, though I think the connotations of deceptiveness are less clear there.


How about:

Freakish-->Oh French, you Freakish beauty!

very unusual, strange, or unexpected. (Source)


Eccentric-->Oh French, you Eccentric beauty!

unconventional and slightly strange. (Source)


Egregious-->Oh French, you Egregious beauty!

outstandingly bad; shocking.

Remarkably good (archaic) (Source)

  • 1
    Eccentric, yes, I like it. I'm considering "deviously eccentric beauty" now!
    – insanity
    Sep 19, 2016 at 14:12
  • Please upvote @insanity if you really like the answer. Thanks :) Feb 17, 2017 at 5:32

I came across "specious" when I was studying for the GRE. It seems to fit quite nicely. As per definition on dictionary.com


Is the word "ostensible"?

Stated or appearing to be true, but not necessarily so

[Oxford Dictionaries]

  • 1
    Welcome to English Language and Usage Folarin. You have offered a question as an answer. It would be best to edit your answer, and provide sources for any information you supply.
    – J. Taylor
    Jan 7, 2019 at 17:11
  • 2
    Hi Folarin. This isn't a bad start, but it's too short: the system has flagged it as "low-quality because of its length and content." An answer on EL&U is expected to be authoritative, detailed, and explain why it is correct. I've edited it to add a published definition of ostensible (the adjectival form is what the question requires) but in future you should do this yourself; you should still edit your post to add why the word is correct. For further guidance, see How to Answer and take the EL&U Tour :-) Jan 7, 2019 at 21:18

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