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A.Word.A.Day--esprit d'escalier

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esprit d'escalier (e-SPREE des-kal-i-YE) noun, also esprit de l'escalier

Thinking of a witty remark too late; hindsight wit or afterwit. Also such a remark.

[From French esprit de l'escalier, from esprit (wit) + escalier (stairs).]

We're all witty. It's just that many of us think of our clever remarks a bit too late. The French call it the staircase wit, indicating that one thought of that perfect retort on his or her way out.

"I can think of hard, tough, one-line put-downs, but only after the person concerned has left the room. (NB: this affliction, esprit de l'escalier, is one of the principal reasons why people become writers.)" Simon Barnes; Glitzy Game Gets Line Not Length All Wrong; The Times (London, UK); Jun 13, 2003.

"'You don't have a television?' The question is invariably accompanied by a baffled expression. ... Even as I'm writing this, my esprit d'escalier kicks in, and I start composing witty comebacks for future use: 'Oh, but those things run on electricity, don't they? We don't use electricity.'" Eya Donald Greenland; There's Luxury in Life Without TV; Toronto Star (Canada); Mar 17, 2003.

This week's theme: words about wordplay.

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