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A Coruscating Letter


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I know this is probably just the sort of petty pedantry up with which you will not put, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, but in his comments re the Sun-Times's Mariotti, your man Miner wrote [Hot Type, June 30]: "Editorial writers offer coruscating opinions of people they don't know and places they've never been."

This really doesn't speak to the issue of writing ill of people whose acquaintance one has never made. Coruscating means: (1) To give forth flashes of light; sparkle and glitter: diamonds coruscating in the candlelight. (2) To exhibit sparkling virtuosity: a flutist whose music coruscated throughout the concert hall.

Who's really going to be writing in to the paper to complain that some anonymous editorial writer wrote a coruscating or scintillating piece about them at a distance? I think Miner was reaching for excoriating and ended up with coruscating instead, which has a sort of onomatopoetic similarity to it.

Petty, you may well argue. But it goes to the very heart of Miner's point regarding Mariotti's remote skewering of his subjects. Words: they're all we have.

James Leinfelder

Michael Miner replies:

I doubt excoriating had anything to do with my mistake, though it might have nudged me in the wrong direction. I grew up encountering coruscating as the money word in the phrase "coruscating wit," and since such wit tends to be at somebody's expense, I thought it described a certain kind of nastiness. I thank Mr. Leinfelder for setting me straight.

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