Daily Archives: September 7, 2009


Ah, this must be something good, yes? With its echoes of luxuriant and a bit of leisure and ease, and the easy roll of the tongue tip through the sur? And its pick-and mix of common letters (all one-pointers in Scrabble), delicious like tureens plus an i or safe like ensure it…

OK, Monty Python geeks, begin reciting the cheese shop sketch. Yes, I’m sure it already came to your mind. This word shows up near the beginning as a rather flowery synonym for peckish – and hungry. And that is how it is used: not merely to mean “hungry” – or, often, “greedy” – but to mean it in a pointedly, comically hyper-erudite sense. This word is not meant to be used ingenuously anymore. It is of the winking-smart register (or perhaps the wink-wink-nudge-nudging smart).

And whence cometh it? From Latin esurientem, present participle of esurire, “be hungry,” which in turn comes from edere, “eat.” Which reminds us that one who is esurient may become edacious when given the chance to fulfill the desire – and edacious, fittingly, is also a winking-smart word; the more earnest term is voracious. Which seems so much more vicious, just as hungry has a deep, throaty gut-lust that simply doesn’t manifest in the lightly salivating tongue-tapping of esurient. How could you take it seriously?