A word made to be said by Scrooge or the Grinch, with its obscene wheedling meanness spliced with the splat of an exploding onset cluster – splendid, splay, split, splash: you know that a burst is coming, but in this case it is not a big sparkling firework but one of those nasal little things that whistle down unseen to ignite your back deck. All of us have a spleen, of course, but fewer, fortunately, are those who are given to expression of that spluttering meanness once thought to proceed from this specific innard. The organ was named by the Greeks, and the Romans took the word and passed it on; over the ages, various humours have been attributed to it, from melacholy to mirth, but at last it was splinted to that peevishness that the word’s sound seems to breathe.
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