Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe
The French have the right word for everything, including the right word for having the right word too late for it to do you any good. It’s the expression l’esprit d’escalier, which means ”staircase wit,” and refers to the snappy comeback you come up with while you’re trudging, or more likely slinking, down the stairs, verbally defeated.
I’ve been on those stairs. Back in college, a verbal amusement known as “pressies” was briefly in fashion.
As in, “I’m Sign, of the Times.”
And “I’m Left, at the Post.”
I came up with a couple of dandies. The problem is, I came up with them about 15 minutes after the craze had run its course. When crazes as inane as this one end, 15 minutes might as well be 15 years—only nincompoops keep at it. So my pressies stayed bottled up inside, where they’ve chewed at me ever since. At one point I gave thought to writing a novel set in the day, simply for the scene in which dashing foreign correspondents insouciantly exchange pressies as the rebel air force rakes their position.
The novel didn’t exactly write itself. Now I can set that project aside. The Reader’s gift week blog theme is all the justification I need for finally dusting off my first pressie.
“Hello! I’m Goldenfrankincense, with the Mirror.”
And surely now you'll want to know the second.
“Hello! I’m Tarzan of the AP.”
Gold, of course, continues to be regarded, even today, as a lovely thing to get for Christmas. And I am pleased to report that frankincense and myrrh, in addition to showing up occasionally in end-of-the-week New York Times crossword puzzles (if it’s a five-letter word, the answer is resin), are also marketed as gifts. A two-ounce bottle of frankincense and myrrh oil from Abba of Jerusalem can be purchased online for $22.
Read more from Gift Week: