Monday, October 11, 2004

'l'esprit de l'escalier'
In French, as well as meaning 'spirit', 'esprit' can mean 'wit' and it seems that the second meaning is what is intended in the phrase.

Staircase wit.

The witty riposte one thinks of only when one has left the drawing room and is already on the way downstairs, in Paradoxe sur le Comédien (written 1773-8, published 1830, Denis Diderot (1713-84) French philosopher and man of letters)

From Collins Robert French Dictionary:-
Avoir l'esprit d'escalier - to be slow on the repartee, to have a plodding mind

This has always been one of my favorite expressions, next to le monde au balcon (the world in the balcony), in assigning a tangible quality to a personal trait (although le monde would be tangible, but at your own risk). L'esprit... is a phrase that pokes fun at you while you're trying to recall it. In effect, your clever little phrase escapes you even as you hope to launch it at your adversary. You chase your own tail and, thus, appear foolish rather than witty.

The debates have reminded me of a mansion full of staircases of wit. It's as if the candidates, specifically our Prez, want us to forget they had a debate, especially one where they've botched some facts or where they've been taken to taks. They go out the next day, armed with their hammers and nails provided to them by their ever-researching staff and try to build some formidable structure of logic and sense. Buildings of verbiage to hide the hole thet dug for themselves only a night earlier.

And all you see is the hole. They're on the ground floor, trying to fool you that they're in the balcony..with the world.
But there I go, foisting l'esprit de l'escalier on you.

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