I’ve got a great word for you today, and it is one that I believe that you will find useful the next time you dine out with the Nobel laureates down the street.
A deipnosophist is a person (might that be you, Gentle Reader?) who is a master of dinner-table conversation.
The word is, admittedly, rare, but it is descriptive of the sort of person we need more of in the world.
How many of you have found yourselves seated next to someone you have been told would be a “charming dinner companion,” only to find that he is a mouth-breathing troglodyte, who only recently emerged from his cave. This person is gifted with primarily a one-syllable vocabulary of about ten words, including the delightful “uh,” yeh,” wha?” and “hmmmm.” Where, you think, is the stimulating deipnosophist who was promised? All week you had looked forward to an evening filled with bon mots, wit, erudition – i.e., a lot of first-class schmoozing. What you wanted and expected was a helluva good evening spent sipping sweet nectar from the flower of deipnosophy. What you get is an interminable night discussing which actor was the better Darren Stevens on “Bewitched?” Dick Sargent or Dick York? (Everyone knows it was Dick York – why waste time discussing it? I could also add that they were both Dicks, but I won’t be that crass.)
The word is from the Greek, deipnosophistai, which is the title of a Greek work on gastronomy by Athenaeus (3rd century), describing learned discussions at a banquet; and comes from deipnon – meal + sophistai – wise men, or masters of the craft.
Further delving into the etymology of this wonderful word, we find that the “meal” referred to in the word deipnon, is the main meal of the day. You are not to expect any true deipnosophy at other meals – breakfast, for instance. No true deipnosopher would be up in time for breakfast anyway, and if he were, he would not be in any shape to deipnosophize after the previous long evening of deipnosophizing.
The word is quite specific, however. Since this master is only in his element at the main meal of the day, what does he talk about the rest of the day? I suppose it is quite possible that he spends the rest of the day sniffing his underarms and picking his nose. Speaking of which, that mouth-breathing troglodyte you were saddled with at dinner might be an extraordinary conversationalist at lunch. Maybe dinner was not his element.
Over the years, my experience tells me it is probably best not to be too quick to judge. In other words, if you run into a deipnosophist, make sure you have him over for breakfast, just to make sure he’s not a complete washout. And that troglodyte? You might want to risk a breakfast with him as well. Conversations about “Bewitched” are so much more stimulating in the morning.
I believe that is enough. . .
(Words and definitions for my “Wednesday’s Word and Picture” posts are most often found at the following highly-recommended site: Phrontistery )