Song of the Sea

There is a term “false friend of a translator” – words in two languages that look or sound similar, but differ significantly in meaning (see Wikipedia). These words do not even have to look/sound exactly the same but as long as they somehow “click”, one’s mind does the rest.

My first encounter with this phenomenon was a word “complexion”: it sounds similar to the word in Russian “комплекция” that means “build” (as in “the dimensions or proportions of a person’s or animal’s body”). The next one was even more drastic: English “pathetic” just begs to be used as a translation for Russian “патетический” (“grandiloquent”).

As I’ve discovered, it doesn’t even have to be a foreign-native pair; foreign-foreign works as well. For a while in my mind “Sogni del Mare” was associated with “Song of the See.” I don’t know if for a native speaker (reader?) “sogni” looks anything like “song”, but for my eye it was (and is) close enough – even now when I know that it means “dreams.”

I tried Sogni del Mare (Dreams of the Sea) by Antonia’s Flowers for the first time many years ago from a dab vial that I bought from the brand’s site as a part of a sample set*. I liked it very much and was even considering a bottle purchase (in my regular “think ten times” manner). Then one day I saw Sogni del Mare at Barneys and was about to buy it but decided to spray it first – just to see how I like it in that form.

It was awful! Not just different from how I remembered or less interesting but plainly awful. There were some very unpleasant herbal notes I never smelled in it before… Of course, I didn’t buy it then.

At some point later at home, when I remembered about the incident, I re-tested my old sample: I still liked it. I couldn’t believe it was the same perfume! “Maybe they’ve reformulated it since I got my sample?” – I asked myself and ordered another set of samples. Reformulation wasn’t the case: I still liked Sogni del Mare from the new vial. Then the only explanation I could think of was that Barneys had a turned tester bottle.

A year later, while at Barneys again, I decided to try Sogni del Mare again – with the same result, believe it or not. I was amazed and I couldn’t explain how it could happen (it couldn’t have been the same tester, could it?). But I asked for a sample, which I brought, together with the other two, to my recent Maui vacation.

Antonia's Flowers Sogni del Mare

I wasn’t imagining things: the sample from Barneys’ bottle was clearly off. I do not know how exactly they managed to do that, but even remains of my ancient first sample (from 2007!), though slightly changed, smells closer to the newer sample than what I smelled twice at Barneys (a year apart).

Sogni del Mare isn’t a statement perfume: it’s soft, tender and … dreamy. I’m not a big fan of colognes but this perfume’s citrus opening charms me. I do not like rhubarb in any of its uses but it doesn’t bother me here. I love black currant and like lotus note in perfumes but I do not distinguish them in Sogni del Mare. All that said, every time I try Sogni del Mare, I realize that I still like it. The only reason I haven’t bought it yet is my fear that samples were from the “old batch” while the perfume was reformulated and “what you smell [at Barneys] is what you get.” But maybe I should still risk it?..

I’m not sure I have a notion about how exactly dreams of the sea might smell, but if you would tell me they smell like Sogni del Mare, I would say: I don’t see why not…

Maui: Dreams of the Sea

Images: my own

* It looks like the sample set is still offered from the brand’s site for a nominal price. They do not ship to Europe but if you’re in the U.S. and haven’t tried their perfumes, you have to!


15 thoughts on “Song of the Sea

  1. Hope the trip to Maui was wonderful. Definitely a great place to be and dream of the sea. I’m definitely going to have to purchase one of the sample sets!


  2. Oh my, what a beautiful picture! With the shelf life of perfumes, once opened, and the condition of its storage (which is basically not ideal for the Barney’s testers), I am not surprised that the tester was off.


    • I was thinking about it for a while… If it did go off, customers were spraying it only once – on paper and were never inclined to spray it on skin. So theoretically the same one bottle could have survived a year…
      I took that picture a week ago: it looks almost as good as the real thing did. I tried to photograph as many sunsets as I could since I usually do not see them in day-to-day life.


  3. I was going to make a similar observation to hajusuuri about testers not being kept in optimum storage conditions. I remember being so concerned about the bright lights and palpable warmth of some tester bottles at Stansted airport that I was on the point of phoning the RSPCP, if it existed, to ask them to stage an intervention.

    And false friends are so interesting.I can’t think of a single example on the spot, but I know I routinely fall foul of them in both the foreign languages I purport to speak!

    I hope you had a great holiday – that sunset looks beautiful.


    • The trip was wonderful, thank you.

      On more than one occasion I worried about perfumes at Duty Free shops. But then I told myself that with the number of people trying those, there just wouldn’t be enough time for those perfume to spoil. With Barneys I can actually believe that the same bottle of an already spoiled perfume could survive there for a year: there is not that many customers in that department… well, in that store altogether.


  4. Undina, this will sound nerdy, but I love studying the way you write your various posts and how you choose a certain thread and create a pattern of ideas from it. Interesting how the dab samples and the Barney’s tester sample are “false friends” to what sounds like a very high degree. I wouldn’t be surprised if the tester at Barneys is the same bottle you spritzed from a year ago. I wonder if you could go into the store with your dab samples, tell them your concern, have them smell the difference, and ask if it might be possible for them to open a new bottle?


    • First of all, thank you: I love that you “parse” my posts that way. As I’ve probably mentioned before, I always hope that my readers “get” what I’m trying to express, but unless somebody confirms it, I can never be sure.
      Second: what a great idea about Barneys! Somehow it didn’t occur to me before. I will do it the next time I go there.


  5. Yes, I’m with Suzanne on both your clever tying together of real-life and perfume themes and the fact you should go back to Barneys with your vials. If they open a new tester bottle that will confirm it. Then you can buy one with peace of mind. I love that you think “10 times” though. Many of us could avoid costly regrets that way although I’m better these days.

    Happy to hear you had a good holiday and look forward to forthcoming posts connected to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Now i do wonder about your experience because I smelled something very similar with Antonia’s Flowers. My mother in law had a lovely bottle of edt, I tried a sample and eech-nasty. Back to Mom in Law’s bottle, that was beautiful. Do these perfumes turn easily? Refo’d to death? I will never know now.


    • I bought once on eBay a used bottle of their original Antonia’s Flowers, I think, in EdP, It was alright when I got it but turned in a couple of months. On the other hand, my Tiempe Passate is older than 6 years – and it’s still fine. But I will probably be trying to get an SA at Barneys to open a fresh bottle: now, when Suzanne introduced this idea, it seems wrong to risk buying a bottle from the website.


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