Why “pheuilleton”?

However you have stumbled upon this site, chances are that you’ve asked yourself: What’s a “pheuilleton”, and why call a blog that? Here’s a simple answer.

European newspapers often have a section called “Feuilleton” (or “feuilleton”). Wikipedia tells me that the term as such was coined in the year 1800, but let’s not go into historical detail here. If you’re as excited about etymology as I am, you’ll be interested to hear that the word is derived from French feuille (leaf, or sheet of paper)—and disappointed to realize how this explains just about nothing. So, a feuilleton is a portion of a newspaper, and thus traditionally printed on paper.

What is more important here is the content of that newspaper section: While in English (and, as I understand, French) newspapers a feuilleton is most commonly a serial story, or that part of the newspaper in which such a piece of prose writing would be published, German newspapers typically use the term Feuilleton (with a capital F) for those pages in which they publish literary criticism, film and theater reviews, as well as cultural or philosophical essays. Many newspapers also include regular columns of a more humorous nature in their Feuilleton.

As a German newspaper reader, I am very fond of Feuilletons in the latter sense. Their general approach is to be a pool for articles on culture, thought, entertainment and everything that doesn’t neatly fit into the more traditional newspaper fields (Politics, Business, Sports, and so on). That’s why, from the perspective of a reader, the Feuilleton section of a good newspaper is often one of its most exciting parts: You never know what it has in store for you. Plus, and perhaps more importantly, it is likely to inspire—rather than merely inform—you.

When starting to toy with the idea of a blog, it soon became clear to me that Feuilleton writing would be the ideal model for it: As a moviegoer and a graduate in literature and philosophy, most of my interests are classic Feuilleton material. Also, I enjoy the journalistic freedom that this approach offers. From straightforward movie reviews to philosophical essays to the utterly mundane or even silly, there are few things that can’t be published in a Feuilleton. Or on pheuilleton. The ‘ph’, finally, was an easy choice: In this digital publication, there are no feuilles—but there may be philosophy.

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