For years I had seen this particular word in print and never bothered to look it up. Basically, in French it means “pinch nose”. Makes sense, right?
From The Oxford Essential Dictionary of Difficult Words:
a pair of eyeglasses with a nose clip instead of ear pieces
From A Passage to India By E M Forster:
He pointed to the dusky line beyond the court, and here and there it flashed a pince-nez or shuffled a shoe, as if aware that he was despising it. European costume had lighted like a leprosy. Few had yielded entirely, but none were untouched.
E M Forster’s writing style is very British and can be difficult to follow. Nevertheless I found this novel interesting from a historical perpective and therefore worth a read. The word pince-nez appears a number of times. Apparently this style of glasses was particularly popular in the 20’s around the time in which the novel is set.
Also, it was just pointed out to me that Morpheus, Laurence Fishburne’s character in The Matrix wears a pair. And with that, I’m sure I will never forget what this word means!