Perfect critiques

Today on The Passive Voice blog, two sentences of criticism that are too wonderful not to share.

The first is from the post “Women intellectuals and the withering quip.” It’s a line from a book review of Henry James, by a British writer, Rebecca West, who said:

“He splits hairs until there are no longer any hairs to split, and the mental gesture becomes merely the making of agitated passes over a complete and disconcerting baldness.”

That is indeed withering. Wow.

The second is a quote from The Passive Guy himself, regarding a legal complaint filed by an art collector. The Passive Guy extensively quotes this complaint. Then he comments:

“In PG’s staggeringly humble opinion, counsel for the upset purchaser has burst through florid and grandiloquent and is fully into rubicund territory with his complaint drafting style.

We will probably never know what happens behind closed doors, but PG would love to hear the judge’s response to the complaint during the first conference with counsel for plaintiff and defendants. PG can never recall seeing the word, “ouroboros” in a court document. PG wonders why counsel held back and did not utilize the even more obscure spelling of uroborus (which, he seems to recall reflects more accurately the pronunciation of the word).”


Now I want to use the word “oroboros” in casual conversation today. Not sure I’m going to be able to pull that off.

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2 thoughts on “Perfect critiques”

  1. I have never seen “rubicund” used that way: is that a — you should excuse the expression — standard usage? (I can’t recall ever seeing the word before at all, though I’d be surprised if it doesn’t show up in e.g. Jack Vance.)

    The sentence is a good example of meaning from context, incidentally, even if it can’t match the impact of Dame Rebecca.

  2. I don’t know that I’ve seen “rubicund” used that way either, but one can easily imagine it being used to mean highly colored or florid. (I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it used to mean ruddy or flushed, as from high living; maybe in historicals?) I’ll be keeping half an eye out now to see if anyone else seems to use the word to mean highly colored or excessive.

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