Words: noeud vital, n

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THE FRENCH often claim that such convenient terms as weekend and e-mail are foisted upon them in place of a cumbersome home-grown product (courrier electronique). One does, however, have a hopeless hankering that, over here, some means could be found to substitute ordinateur for PC, as in the grey thing with a screen which sits on a desk.

Meanwhile, to get to today's noeud vital, Wallace Stevens wrote in the Fifties, in one of his notebooks, that "what reality lacks is a noeud vital with life". The notes to the admirable Library of America edition translate this as "vital nexus". To French ears, it means nerve centre, and is surely more piquant than the bland English equivalent. As for what else noeud can mean, we draw a veil over that.