Daily Archives: November 11, 2012

evite, Evite, evitable

The party, this time, was chez Maury: an evening of liquor, words, and liquor words. Most of the usual suspects from the local Order of Logogustation were there. I was surprised, given the paronomastic potential, not to see our local vulgarian, Ross Ewage, in attendance.

“I thought,” I said to Maury, “that he would inevitably be here, given the theme.”

“In fact,” Maury said, “he turned out to be evitable. Advertently so.” He gave a wry smile and sipped his Collingwood. Then he added, “Although only just. Thereby hangs a tale.”

“Whose tail?”

“Marilyn’s. And I have learned a lesson about not using arcane and archaic vocabulary too freely.”

Marilyn Frack. This was sounding entertaining – as long as I wasn’t the one being discomfited.

“I happened to be talking with Edgar,” Maury continued – he meant Edgar Frick, the other half of the leather-clad duo of incessant lasciviousness. “I said I was going to be hosting this party – I don’t know why I was talking with Edgar about this, but really, Ross may be evitable but Marilyn is inevitable.” He sighed. “Anyway, he asked whether Ross would be coming. I said we should evite him.”

“And for some reason,” I said, “you assumed that Edgar would know you were using the old verb meaning ‘avoid or shun’.” (It’s from Latin evitare.)

“Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson used it. Edgar is a well-read man. But he is also more used to current usage.”

“So Edgar sent him an electronic invitation,” I said. Of course Evite is a specific website, but it’s being generalized like Kleenex lately, surely to the annoyance of the owners of Evite.com.

“No, he wouldn’t have done that; he wasn’t in charge of the invites. But what he did do was mention it to Marilyn. What he said, however, was ‘Maury wants to send Ross an Evite.’”

Maury paused to let that sink in for as long as it took him to toss back the rest of his glass of rye. Then he reached over to a bottle of Balvenie on the nearby sideboard and reloaded. Wheels were still turning in my mind.

Maury raised an eyebrow. “Marilyn decided she would be the Evite.”

The penny dropped.

“Did she bring Edgar as an Adamite?” I asked.

An Adamite and an Evite, you see, are a man and a woman (respectively) who dress as Adam and Eve did. Which is to say with no – or very little – clothing.

“She may have asked him,” Maury said, “but if she did, he demurred, and she wasn’t adamant.”

“So she went over to Ross’s place…” I said.

“Unannounced,” Maury said, “and wearing only stilettos, a thong bottom, and body paint that looked like her usual black leather outfit.”

I clutched the sideboard so as not to collapse with laughter. Raising my glass of Old Sam, I managed to catch my breath to say, “That sounds like a rum thing!”

“It just happens,” Maury said, drily, “that it was a bit of a rainy day. And Marilyn’s paint was, shall we say, delible.”

“So by the time she got to his place” I said, “it was beginning to streak?”

“And so was she.” He nodded and sipped his drink. “When she reached his door, it was running. Shortly thereafter, so was he. And that –” he raised his glass – “scotched that.”

Thanks to Duane Aubin for inspiring this. As to his wondering why evitable and delible fell away while their negatives persisted, I cannot say for sure what inclines us more to the words that refer to permanence and inescapability, although the negatives seem always to have been more used in English and appear to have entered the language first as well. It’s something worth more digging…


We come around a round like o
Because what goes returns, you know
If mouth does not, then letter will
If letter not, mouth fills the bill
It always comes – it goes to show

That history’s a poem so
Involved in form we follow though
We think it free but if free will
We come around

In verse we make our garden grow
We do – forget – repeat – the flow
Is water in a turning mill
Or swirling step we dance until
As line turns back to make rondeau
We come around

This is a rondeau: a poem that comes around. Round like the o, round like your mouth when you say the eau. The poem is a fixed form, set as if to music – and there is also a musical form called rondeau. The word rondeau recalls round and French ronde, related words; by accident it also carries water, French eau.

The form has a most famous exemplar, one that is not so much a dance as a returning remembrance. It is the poem that is read everywhere in Canada – I don’t know where else – every Remembrance Day, November 11:

In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead; short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe!
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Either way, we come around.