You know those times when you come up with the perfect retort–three days after the conversation? There’s a term for that: esprit de l’escalier, which I learned while reviewing a book called Wordcatcher by Phil Cousineau (read the review here). He defines this French phrase as “a brilliant comeback, witty response, quick rejoinder–that comes to mind too late.” It literally translates as “the spirit of the staircase” and was “coined by the French philosopher Denis Diderot as he walked downstairs after a party at the home of Joseph Necker, wishing he had been wittier during dinner.”
I have recently had such an experience. Conversation this weekend, regarding my persistent, puzzling, and seemingly permanent state of unemployment:
Dad: You have a résumé, right?
Me: Yes. I’ve had a résumé since college.
What I should’ve said (and only thought up last night): No. I’ve hired a minstrel to stroll about downtown and sing of my virtues and employable merits to any executive-looking passersby.
Alas, I’m not always as quick on my feet as I’d like. I am afflicted with esprit de l’escalier.