“You were not pleased with your Caribbean sojourn?” I said. Marica and Ronald had just returned from a vacation and seemed disaffected.
“The resort was a literal garbage dump,” Ronald said.
“Rubbish everywhere,” Marica said. “Not just littoral. Riparian, pelagic, probably even benthic, for all I know.” For once they had the illusion of being in the same conversation.
“Probably been thick on the ground for a long time, yeah” Ronald said.
“Benthic on the ground?” Marica said, and appeared to be about to say “that doesn’t make sense.” She paused instead. “…Oh. Never mind.”
“I mean, for her, a beach is a literary thing,” Ronald said. “A place to read a book. But I like to look at the glitter all over the waves, the little roll of the small boats on the sea, the flutter of birds, the rattle of scattering pebbles and the skittering of little critters… a lotta real nice things like that. I can hardly enjoy that when there’s litter all over the place,” he concluded bitterly.
“Oh, it matters to me too,” Marica said. “Environment is important. The littoral zone is not just a tourist attraction; it’s essential to the planet’s health.”
Ronald snorted. “Yeah, the zone of literal reality would be kinda important. Even if some people prefer the figurative.”
Marica looked at Ronald over the rims of her glasses. “L. I. T T. O. R. A L. Littoral. ‘Of or pertaining to the zone including the shore of an ocean or lake.'” She turned to me. “Why the hell don’t we pronounce it ‘litTORal,’ anyway? That would be so much less ambiguous.”
“Less fun, too,” I said. “Sometimes. But the stress pattern seems to have been set in Latin with the original root litus, ‘shore’, which had a long first vowel and so was stressed on the first syllable. I do like how it causes the tongue to touch the tip, then roll back and forward to touch again, like a wave at the shore. The l’s are the high water, the t’s halfway down, the r the low water…”
“I suppose,” Marica mused, “we could see the littoral zone as like the interface between the great seas of imagination, with their ships of fiction, and the solid world of physical reality. The literal littoral zone.”
“The littered littoral zone,” Ronald said. “The only crabs were me and Marica.”
“So your vacation was a washout? Obliterated?”
“No, we salvaged it by shifting to another resort farther up the shore.”
Marica nodded. “A littoral lateral relocation.”
Thanks to @SportLinguist (Ryan Dewey) for suggesting littoral, which I was surprised to find I had not tasted before.