From Edward Gorey

I’ve been sending out postcards of Edward Gorey drawings recently. Hard to choose favorites, but here are two that tickle me: the title of his story The Epiplectic Bicycle, and the second line in the deathly abecedarian book The Gashleycrumb Tinies:

Epiplectic looks like a bizarre play on epileptic (maybe a portmanteau of epileptic and electric), but it is in fact a rhetorical term. In epiplexis, the speaker reproaches or rebukes by asking questions, as Joseph Welch famously did to Senator Joseph McCarthy, in June 1954:

Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?

(from Gk. epi, ‘upon’ and plessein, ‘to strike’). Or as the BYU site on rhetorical figures puts it:

Asking questions in order to chide, to express grief, or to inveigh. A kind of rhetorical question. (link)

YouTube of the story of the sister and brother Embley and Yewbert and their adventures with the bicycle here. The bicycle does speak, but neither asks questions nor rebukes.

In The Gashleycrumb Tinies (complete alphabet here, animated version here), a series of children from Amy (falling down the stairs) through Zillah (drinking too much gin) are polished off in rhymed couplets of dactylic tetrameter. Basil’s line has always pleased me because of the alliteration, especially in by bears, the sibilant echo in the /z/ of Basil and the /s/ of assaulted, and the /l/s in those two words.

2 Responses to “From Edward Gorey”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    Something else to add to the epiplectic mix: apoplectic.

  2. The Twelve Terrors of Christmas « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] That Holiday approaches, with only Halloween and (U.S.) Thanksgiving standing in its way, and I’m already getting Christmas cards. Well, not serious Christmas cards, but antique cards from one correspondent and super-cutesy cards from another. And then I came across John Updike’s playful The Twelve Terrors of Christmas, with drawings by Edward Gorey (most recent posting on Updike on this blog here; on Gorey, here). […]

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