esculent

In word country, every word is esculent. I will not say that all are excellent, nor even succulent, but all are suitable for ingestion. Serve some in many contexts, others in the fanciest feasts, others in heavily spiced dishes, a few in just the most brutish contexts or perhaps under glass. Be aware that some words that are perfectly fine by themselves may combine into recipes that will make the heartiest word-eater gag, send your dear diners dashing for the door, end up crammed down your own throat. Some words provoke reactions up to anaphylaxis in some diners, and you must be aware. But there exists no word that is intrinsically so poisonous that none can eat it.

Esculent itself is especially esculent. It is not a word for just any recipe; the readers may need a schooling in it before they can digest it well, and its rarity makes it a caviar or morel word, except that it comes at no great price. The taste of it on the tongue is especially sapid; the initial /ɛsk/ is so much like the sound from intaking and swallowing the extra saliva that blossoms in the mouth after a taste of something exceptionally savory – or spicy. Then the tongue releases with a glide, licks the liquid /l/, lifts up for the mid-front vowel and laps forward again like a second small wave of surf at the beach edge of your alveolar ridge.

The letters of this word likewise lap, lick, dance; they give clues when rearranged, and form their secret cult, and after the glass is drained leave behind wet lees to be reflected in the cute lens of the drinker’s eye, tense with a lust for language. They hint of foreign or classical things, of an escuela or an escudo or something lucent.

Climb the escalier to heaven and you will see that the table is set with esca. What is the case here? In paradise Latin has a place at the table, and esca is ‘food’. From this came esculentus: fit to be eaten. This word esculentus is cute unless… unless what? Unless you’re not speaking Latin, I suppose. So we have English esculent, suitable for use as ‘suitable for use as food’. Such a dull definition for such a sensually palate-cleansing word, so excellent when used consensually. Cultivate it and cut a little esculent when it’s ready for serving; place it on the tip of your tongue, taste it, and serve it delicately. All words are esculent; this word is esculent.

2 responses to “esculent

  1. Thanks for your excellent commentary on “esculent.”

    Here’s Neruda on words’ succulence from an essay on language:
    In a section of his Memoirs called The Word, Pablo Neruda says, “…it’s the words that sing, they soar/and descend…I love them…I bite into them, / I melt them down…I love words so much /…I want to fit them all / into my poem, catch them in mid-flight,/ trap them, clean them, peel them, set myself / in front of the dish, stir them, shake them, / drink them, gulp them down.”

  2. grist for the wordsmith’s mill

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