L’esprit de l’escalier

I am often in a meeting or social engagement where a remark, joke or comment is made which leaves me speechless, I tend to take longer to process things than others. If someone says something against me I am usually embarrassed or confused as to how to react and so let the moment pass by.

However, 5 minutes later I am a wizard of wit 25 minutes or that night. Especially if I have a pen or keyboard near by. OK, I agree, that is rarely possible or practical so I am left with the most funniest, smartest witty remarks too late bouncing in my head. Best to write them down and not waste them.

I learned many years ago that there is a word for this, ‘L’esprit de l’escalier’ in French it means ‘staircase wit’. Try to imagine the feeling of leaving the dinner party and as you get to the bottom of the staircase you think of the perfect reply too late.

So it was with a smile I recalled 4 years ago. Just after an evening event in Philadelphia a group of colleagues and I were walking down a long set of spiral staircases after dinner. I stopped and proclaimed, “ah that was it, L’esprit de l’escalier!, that was the expression I was looking for at dinner”, the group paused, looked at me quizzically and then just carried on walking and talking.

Published by NCS

reader of great literature, teller of tales, photographer of mostly awful snaps but on occasion I am half decent.

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