erik lundegaard

Words I Learned While Reading Gore Vidal

The day after Gore Vidal died I went a little crazy with Gore Vidal quotes; but they were just sitting there, in the Vidal books I owned, marked and underlined, ready to be disseminated.

I also came across about two dozen words that I didn't know when I first read the book. Back then, being the good student, I looked them up and wrote the definition in the margins. These are just sitting there, too. Here's a sampling:

  • l'espirit de l'escalier: the wit of the staircase; any witticism or cleverness that comes too late, as on the staircase away from the debate
  • ex cathedra: with the authority derived from one's office or position: esp. of the pope's infallibility as defined in Roman Catholic doctrine
  • collyrium: an eye lotion
  • bibulous: fond of alcoholic beverages; highly absorbent
  • recondite: hidden from sight; deep
  • vatic: prophetic; oracular
  • velleities: inclinations; slight wishes or tendencies; the lowest degree of volition
  • quotidian: occurring every day
  • caveat lector: let the reader beware
  • manqué: short of or frustrated in the fulfillment of one's aspirations or talents — used postpositively
  • faute de mieux: for lack of something better or more desirable
  • plangent: having a loud reverberating sound; having an expressive and especially plaintive quality

Of these, only 'quotidian' became part of my regular writing vocabulary. Shame. I could've used l'espirit de l'escalier, since, like most (but unlike Vidal, one imagines), it's generally the only wit I know. It might even make a good tagline for this site. Or I could always go with: Faute de mieux. Or: Caveat lector. Or: Movie critic manqué.

Endless choices.

Posted at 08:12 AM on Sat. Aug 04, 2012 in category Word Study  


Reed wrote:

I just wanted to mention that I've thoroughly enjoyed Gore Vidal week.

(I just learned quotidian because it is a pretty common word in French, but this is a good reinforcement!)

Comment posted on Sun. Aug 05, 2012 at 08:26 AM

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