Tuesday, November 13, 2012


“The announcement on the first page of The Times, which Charles Ottery read at Flambard, and every letter of which was printed on his mind, ran thus:

“OTTERY --  Suddenly in London on the 9th inst., Captain Charles Ottery,  late Scots Fusiliers, of Marlcote, Glos., at the age of 36.

It fitted his case precisely.  The regiment was right (the dropping of the “Royal” before its title was a familiar journalistic omission), Marlcote was his family place, and in June of the following year he would have passed his thirty-sixth birthday.”

Note:  I've complained in the past about neologisms, especially ones invented by pretentious academics (link) supporting fashionable endeavors of dubious value, but trying to find a title for this excerpt from John Buchan's gripping and enjoyable The Gap In the Curtain (1932) relating Captain Charles Ottery's encounter with his own Times obituary at the Flambard house party a year in advance of his recorded demise, I thought: why not Prescission (as in an act of rescission occurring prospectively)?  

Webster's says the word doesn't exist.  But I remember my friend and former colleague Lou Polenta once unexpectedly and memorably using the portmanteau word "insinuendo,” which I thought didn’t exist until I later read it (with amazement) in Baron Corvo's Hadrian VII and learned that it had been in (disfavored by the OED) use since at least the mid-nineteeth century. 

Lou was a master of original expression. Once, describing an unpleasant office encounter with a corporate superior of ours, Lou said: “He raped me over the coals."   

Pure genius, I think, from a wonderful man.