Thursday, August 27, 2009


Chicago Literary Scene Examiner


What sort of cultural forces conspire to tip a word

from the obscurer entries in the dictionary

to becoming mainstream lexicon?

"Tipping point" is a good example,

a phrase introduced to popular culture

by Malcolm Gladwell's bestselling book of the same name.

The phrase has been around for much longer, of course,

but Gladwell tipped it into the public's widespread conscience.

So it is with the word "riposte".

I've been hearing it more and more lately

but today was the proverbial tipping point.

I read it in this review in the Washington Post (paragraph 6):

"But even if some people took consumer goods,

Solnit offers the best riposte I've encountered:..."

OK, a journalist using it to review a book.

Definitely part of the literati.

Then, a few hours later, I heard it on the radio on

NPR's All Things Considered for the

My Guilty Pleasure feature,

where the essayist is comparing Jaws

the movie to Jaws the book.

Again, it was used by an author,

who you expect to use words

beloved by fellow word nerds.

Obviously, the literati is enamored with this word

but at what point did it become popularized?

Could it be from posting as

in blogging and reposting

as in reblogging and every one's

caught up in all words post?

Hmm, tenuous at best.

I will offer that it may be my ignorance

moreso than widespread riposte-ing.

A quick Google turns up The Huffington Riposte,

"offering a conservative counterbalance

to the extreme left liberalism

of The Huffington Post."

I'm not kidding.

From a guy out of Texas.

I told you I wasn't kidding.

There's also the Canadian Riposte Journal,

which hasn't been updated

in a year and a half.

I might be getting off track.

There are plenty of gaming sites that use it

in its more esoteric meaning:

"[fencing] a quick return thrust following a parry."

That's from my trusty weighty

New Oxford American Dictionary.

It also says: "RIPOSTE

(just forget the E and you'll pronunce it right)

n. a quick clever reply to an insult or criticism."

Ooh. Now I like it too.

I'm sure I'll get plenty of chances to use it,

especially after this post.


Leo Rugiens says:

Thanks for the notice, 'left-handed' though it may be!
As the creator and editor of The Huffington Riposte
I cannot help but wonder if you, Robert Duffer,
are a 'guy from Chicago?'
Frankly, in view of the present standing Chicago
has in the estimation of the American public,
I would rather be a guy from Texas.

August 27, 4:32 PM

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