DailyAfirmation (dailyafirmation) wrote,

Spinning wheel, dead hamster; l'esprit de l'escalier; Schadenfreude; class; and dancing...

I listened to a couple of slate.com podcasts today that I just loved.

One was called, "The Smartest Way To Say Stupid," which is about a contest that slate.com held for people to send in euphemisms for the word "stupid." The podcast clarifies that "synonyms" are not euphemisms, so words like "dimwit" and "knucklehead," for example, are not euphemisms.

Here are four examples they gave as legitimate euphemisms for stupid:

  • "He's one sandwich short of  a picnic."
  • "She's not the sharpest knife in the drawer."
  • "His elevator doesn't go to the top floor."

  • and my all-time favorite:

  • "The wheel is spinning, but the hamster is dead."
The contest invited folks to send in ones they've heard or to make up their own and send them in.  I, of course, made up my own, which was:

"The book is open, but there's no table of contents."

Anyone else want to play?  If you do contribute one, say whether you've heard it or have made it up.

The other podcast I liked was, "The New Words and Ideas We Need," described as, "The team behind the Oxford English Dictionary recently announced a list of new words to be included in 2005, but commentator Bill Langworthy believes the words we get aren't always the words we need."

In one part of this podcast, Bill talks about how other languages have a word, for which there is no English equivalent, that captures an idea.

One is a French term known as l'esprit de l'escalier, which means, literally, "staircase wit."

In the original it refers to that infuriating situation in which you leave a drawing room and are halfway down the stairs before you suddenly think of that devastatingly witty comment you could have made. (Architectural note: eighteenth-century grand houses had their principal public rooms on an upper floor.) More generally, it’s any sparkling remark you wish you had thought of at the time but were too slow-witted to produce.

The popular TV show Seinfeld devoted an episode to a case of l'esprit de l'escalier. In the episode, titled "The Comeback", George Costanza is embarrassed at a staff meeting by a colleague who observes him monopolizing a tray of shrimp cocktail and says, "Hey, George, the ocean called, and they're running out of shrimp." George is tormented by l'esprit de l'escalier when he later comes up with the response, "The jerk store called, and they're running out of you," and spends much of the remainder of the episode trying to recreate the initial incident so that he can make use of his comeback line.

Later in the podcast, Bill says, "The Germans have Schadenfreude, taking pleasure in the embarrassment and misfortune of others. I told my German friend how odd it was that Americans don't have a term for this. 'You do,' she said, 'You call it reality TV.'"

I took the bus to class again today. Cool.

I was a little frustrated in class today. You can tell this is a "graduate-level seminar" class as opposed to an "undergraduate-level lecture" class, whereas in the latter, it's like pulling teeth to get students to "discuss," in the former, it's difficult to get a word in edgewise.

Dancing was fairly festive tonight. I spent a little time talking to a guy named "Rip," who was very "affirming" about my dancing, and a guy named "De-wight" (he said it with two syllables when he introduced himself), who was hanging out with Rip, but had just met him tonight.

Rip was from Roanoke Rapids. Dwight is from here. Dwight recently had someone slip something into his drink at Ibiza, and woke up in jail at about 4:00 in the morning. He also has a brother who is in prison.

Carl did not teach a lesson tonight. Van told me about him and Adam.

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