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Apr 1, 2005
This week's theme
Words about wordplay

This week's words
antanaclasis
paralipsis
antiphrasis
oxymoron
esprit d'escalier

“All words are pegs to hang ideas on.” ~Beecher
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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

esprit d'escalier (or esprit de l'escalier)

PRONUNCIATION:
(e-SPREE des-kal-i-YE) Pronunciation RealAudio

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

ETYMOLOGY:
From French esprit de l'escalier, from esprit (wit) + escalier (stairs).

NOTES:
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.

USAGE:
"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.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters. -English Proverb

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