What sort of cultural forces conspire to tip a word
from the obscurer entries in the dictionary
to becoming mainstream lexicon?
"Tipping point" is a good example,
a phrase introduced to popular culture
by Malcolm Gladwell's bestselling book of the same name.
The phrase has been around for much longer, of course,
but Gladwell tipped it into the public's widespread conscience.
So it is with the word "riposte".
I've been hearing it more and more lately
but today was the proverbial tipping point.
I read it in this review in the Washington Post (paragraph 6):
"But even if some people took consumer goods,
Solnit offers the best riposte I've encountered:..."
OK, a journalist using it to review a book.
Definitely part of the literati.
Then, a few hours later, I heard it on the radio on
NPR's All Things Considered for the
My Guilty Pleasure feature,
where the essayist is comparing Jaws
the movie to Jaws the book.
Again, it was used by an author,
who you expect to use words
beloved by fellow word nerds.
Obviously, the literati is enamored with this word
but at what point did it become popularized?
Could it be from posting as
in blogging and reposting
as in reblogging and every one's
caught up in all words post?
Hmm, tenuous at best.
I will offer that it may be my ignorance
moreso than widespread riposte-ing.
A quick Google turns up The Huffington Riposte,
"offering a conservative counterbalance
to the extreme left liberalism
of The Huffington Post."
I'm not kidding.
From a guy out of Texas.
I told you I wasn't kidding.
There's also the Canadian Riposte Journal,
which hasn't been updated
in a year and a half.
I might be getting off track.
There are plenty of gaming sites that use it
in its more esoteric meaning:
"[fencing] a quick return thrust following a parry."
That's from my trusty weighty
New Oxford American Dictionary.
It also says: "RIPOSTE
(just forget the E and you'll pronunce it right)
n. a quick clever reply to an insult or criticism."
Ooh. Now I like it too.
I'm sure I'll get plenty of chances to use it,
especially after this post.