The Corner

The Sesquipedalian Torch

In today’s Impromptus, I list some words I was unfamiliar with, before reading a particular book. (A biography of Britten.) I say, “Bill Buckley used to do this. I remember he once devoted a whole column to words he didn’t know — they came from a John Updike book.”

Turns out, I got that slightly wrong. He wrote a column about words, and, toward the end, listed some words he didn’t know — from an Updike novel, The Coup. Bill writes, “And so I pass on the sesquipedalian torch. All letters of complaint about unusual words will henceforward be sent on to Mr. Updike.”

A wonderful column. A reader found it online and sent it to me. The date is December 15, 1978. If you haven’t read it — it was published in one of Bill’s collections — you’ll love it. If you did read it, you’ll love reading it again, as I did. Here.


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