In my cubicle days, I worked near the production staff. There was one assistant who drove everyone crazy. She spoke in cliche and didn’t understand basic aspects of production flow even after it was explained to her twenty-five times. One of my other colleagues and I would escape the cubicles and go out to get coffee. She had three kids and a writing studio that no one, including her husband, knew about. She was wry and smart, and perpetually harassed by the assistant.
“I swear, the next time [assistant] asks me how my weekend was, I will say to her ‘It was as tawdry as it was torrid’ and see what she has to say about that,” she told me one day, as we went out to get coffee. For the rest of the time we worked together one or other of us would ask how something was and the other would reply “It was as tawdry as it was torrid.”
I’m reading a memoir that is a tad overwritten, but this sentence just about did me in.
“It was a trip as bumptious as it was madcap.”
I don’t care who your father is, memoirist, you are not allowed to use the word bumptious in all seriousness. This is a story you’ve heard other people tell too many times. It could be more interesting and less name-droppy. Instead of using old-fashioned words to talk about intellectual life in Paris in the fifties, which is what this sentence refers to, tell me like it was. Make it your own.
Let me know how it felt to be there. Make your details interesting, not just your language. Tell it yourself, and make me feel as if I were there. And I’ll bet I’ll feel neither madcap nor bumptious.
How was your evening?