Almost exactly a year ago I was attending my first of many meetings with Azamara Club Cruises and the very elegant British woman in charge of our marketing for the United Kingdom used the word ‘bespoke’ in reference to selling our cruises in the UK market. I jotted the word down with a note to look it up. Of course I had seen the word written but hearing it out loud brought me up short. It sounded somewhat Shakespearean. And frankly I was not sure I understood what she meant to convey by the use. As an aside I’ll point out that the word is used throughout our brochures and website, and I have even seen the use of it skewered a bit on a social media forum I monitor. Still, due to lack of time or attention span, I had not looked it up.
So fast forward to last night where one would have found me at home watching a Masterpiece Mystery on PBS (Grantchester) while, coincidentally, flipping through a friend’s copy of “The English Home” magazine. What do I see but the word ‘bespoke’ sprinkled throughout in articles and promotions, such as “Bespoke Furniture for your Home” and “Bespoke Hand Painted Tiles” and again I wonder, just what are they trying to convey? So merely one year tardy I looked it up online:
"Bespoke is an adjective for anything commissioned to a particular specification. It may be altered or tailored to the customs, tastes or usage of an individual purchaser. Synonyms are 'custom-made', 'made to order', and 'made to measure'. Antonyms are 'Off-the-shelf' and 'ready-to-wear'.
The word bespoke is derived from the verb to bespeak, meaning to 'speak for something'. The particular meaning of the verb form given in the Oxford English Dictionary, 'to speak for, to arrange for, engage beforehand: to ‘order’ (goods)', is first cited from 1583.
The term is generally more prevalent in British English, for example, bespoke jewellery. American English, on the other hand, tends to use the word 'custom' instead, as in custom car, custom motorcycle etc." (Source)
Ah ha! It means custom-made. In the case of our line’s publicity you will see it used throughout, such as “To add to your experience, we now include an exclusive, bespoke, authentic AzAmazing Evenings event on most voyages.” In this example it is meant to convey that each voyage will include a unique (made-to-order for that voyage) evening event ashore.
Or a word search of our website will result in various hits, most about tours, but here’s one I found about coffee: “At Mosaic Café, the ships' central gathering spot, guests can purchase a freshly brewed cup of bespoke coffee or tea.”
I can attest to drinking many cups of bespoke coffee at the Mosaic Café while aboard the Journey this past fall. In fact I now realize I am a master at brewing a bespoke pot of coffee for my husband and myself nearly every morning! Ok, I jest a bit. I am happy to now know how to use the word in a sentence. And I am proud to be a part of a company that does do things differently, not in cookie-cutter fashion.
Note to the yet-to-cruise on Azamara…this is one of the least stuffy lines I have ever sailed. There will be no vocabulary quiz onboard!
Footnote: It turns out its usage is on the upswing according to Google.
Here are a few recommended "bespoke" voyages this summer:
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