Wednesday, November 24, 2010

just le right mot - vicissitude

so i was sitting and thinking about "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" tonight, how a reprieve is a happy thing even if it isn't the best thing or even a thing we truly desire. and i wanted just one word that conveyed that sense, rather than the phrase from the bard. and then i remembered a great one, one that makes a lovely sound:


now, ultimately we can find the root of this word in latin, the word vicis, meaning change, and mostly it tends to be employed to communicate the moment fate casts a dark glance in our direction, or seemingly hurls imprecations and obstacles in our path.

most commonly, we speak of the vicissitudes of daily life as potentially negative things. but vicissitude does not need to connote a sense that all our vigour trembles at the end of a point, or lash, or stone. it can bluntly remind us that life is happenstance; that change is upon us even as we cry it off, and once in a while we hear rather than feel the dart, like an angry bee move past our cheek with a wind. that might not save us any misery, but at least it alerts us to change, and reminds us to check ourselves, and perhaps choose another way, perhaps even a more visceral way.

post script: i realize i have read hamlet far too many times. :)

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