Two for One

30 Jan

Classic Word of the Dayassiduity – n.  diligence, close attention to what one is doing

trenchancy – n.  keen perceptiveness

Classical Usage:  James throws these two words into one big sentence in Chapter XX about the ex-patriots that Mrs. Touchett spends time with in Paris.  Isabel saw them arrive with a good deal of assiduity at her aunt’s hotel, and pronounced on them with a trenchancy doubtless to be accounted for by the temporary exaltation of her sense of human duty.

Classically Mad Usage:  Huh?  I have no idea what our dear friend Henry is trying to say about these Europe loving Americans.  Maybe if I do that old vocabulary trick that I use on my son and substitute a bunch of words I can figure out what he’s talking about.  Let’s try it:  Isabel saw the Americans arrive very diligently at the caravansary where her aunt stayed, and declared on them with a keen perceptiveness that was because of the short-lived importance of her understanding of respecting people.

That made it worse.



Posted by on January 30, 2013 in The Portrait of a Lady


Tags: , , , , ,

4 responses to “Two for One

  1. Jeannette

    January 30, 2013 at 7:51 am

    OK, that makes no sense at all. Is he trying to say that she’s right on top of things – sort of anticipating both their arrival and socially welcoming them?

  2. Jeannette

    January 30, 2013 at 7:52 am

    By the way, your trenchancy in picking out this crazy sentence shows your assiduity in careful reading. Much more careful than mine, I’m afraid.


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