Breath Forts

One of the words that came up this week in the French conversation group I’m part of was château gonflable or inflatable/bouncy castle.

Bouncy castle

The word gonflable means inflatable, and comes from gonfler (to blow up, inflate, pump up, swell, rise, bore), from the Latin cōnflāre, from cōnflō (I kindle (a fire); I forge, fuse, melt (metal); I refine / purify; I inflame (passions)), from con- (with) & flō (breathe, blow) [source].

From the same root we get the English word conflate (to mix together different elements; to fail to distinguish separate things).

Other expressions featuring gonflable include:

  • sac/coussin gonflable = airbag
  • bateau gonflable = inflatable boat
  • matelas gonflable = air bed/mattress
  • aire de jeux gonflables = soft play area

I call such things bouncy castles, but they have other names, such as inflatable castles, bouncing castle, bouncy houses, bounce houses, jumping castle, moon bounces, moonwalks or jumpers.

What do you call them?

5 thoughts on “Breath Forts

  1. I call a château gonflable a “Hüpfburg” (‘jumping castle’). Very popular among the little ones.

  2. I would say that “bounce house” is the most common in the U.S.

    Another interesting usage of this term is in the old baseball poem “Tinker to Evers to Chance”: “Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble.” Always wondered what that meant, until now.

  3. Jim M. A gonfalon is, in fact, “A banner or pennant, especially one with streamers, hung from a crossbar” (Oxford Dictionary). Its origin is late 16th century, from Italian gonfalone. I’m unsure how it comes to be teamed with the word ‘bubble’ in your quotation.

  4. In Swedish, we can say “hoppborg” (jumping castle, castle for jumping),
    but I think “hoppslott” with the same meaning is also possible.

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