Words: defalcation, n.

Christopher Hawtree
Click to follow
The Independent Culture
THAT FINE columnist Herb Caen recorded a scene in Spain when Robert Ruark said to a guest, Truman Capote, "I wrote 5,000 words today, Truman, and I bet you sat there at that desk with your quill pen and wrote one word." To which Capote replied, "Yes, Robert, but it was the right word."

I mentioned this to Justin Cartwright, who says that Evelyn Waugh must have felt that satisfaction when he wrote of "the defalcation of the secretary with two-thirds of the expedition's capital". (How pleasing to have "The Man Who Liked Dickens", and much else, in that elegant bargain, Everyman's The Complete Short Stories.) Waugh used this word - from the Latin for scythe - 50 years after the last OED instance: 66 years on, let us do so too.

Comments