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.”
“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…