Together we managed to haul out what remained of the statue (head and torso and one arm), cleaned her battered body (but not too much), and propped her up against a wall, where she slumped, exhausted, a study in survival against the odds.
‘Do think she might preside over us?’ I asked. ‘When she recovers, obviously.’
He laughed, still out of breath. ‘I’d hope so, after all that.’
‘We could find her a nice spot.’
He found her one, too: a plain cube of sandstone.
From The Lantern
Plinth. It never occurred to me that a word like “plinth” could be troublesome. It’s the base on which a pillar or statue rests. But when I can gather the courage to have a look around the internet to see what the blog reviewers and readers are saying, I do find a fair few complaining that my vocabulary is too esoteric.
Well yes, I do have a decent command of the English language because I’m well-educated and interested in other languages too: I speak fluent French, basic German, and studied Latin at school. I enjoy words. And, quite importantly, in The Lantern the narrator Eve is a translator whose business is to choose words carefully.
There’s a separate point about why readers shouldn’t expect writers to write with confidence and flourish – when surely we’d expect professional sportsmen to play to the best of their ability without muttering darkly about them showing off, or musicians to give their best performances, or artists paint the best pictures they can?
Sometimes though, it’s simply the difference between English and American English. I was reminded of this when someone pointed out, at the end of my previous post, that “smartened up” was a very English phrase, meaning “spruced up”, cleaned and tidied. As I was writing about a place, I might equally well have used the term “gentrified”.
Most British people would be completely familiar with the word plinth, especially if they were garden enthusiasts. Just think how much worse the misunderstandings might have been if I’d gone for stylobate or crepidoma (look it up here!).
I’m going to invite the very funny British comedienne Miranda Hart, clearly a logophile herself, to have the final word. Watch out for the King of Words… (I so hope that this very short YouTube extract is accessible in the US – if not, I suggest searching for Miranda Hart + Moist Plinth.)