'Paris Review' Quixotically Campaigns Against Overuse of 'Quixotic'

Questionable uses of the loanword were everywhere this week

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The Paris Review's Jonathan Gharraie loves Don Quixote. He doesn't love the way people misuse the adjective derived from the title character's surname.

"What does it mean to be quixotic today?" he asks. "Are street-corner preachers quixotic?" Is Bono? What about film directors who dementedly pursue the unlikely grail of adapting a difficult book for the screen...[Does] quixotic threaten to swamp Quixote? Can all the possibilities and implications of a character, or even—more ambitiously—a life’s work, be contained within the semantic boundaries of just one word?"

Gharraie might prefer to have only squire-staffed Spaniards charging at buildings compared to Cervantes' hero. When you consider the media's willingness to use the phrase, though, this seems unlikely. Among the more notable endeavors deemed quixotic this past week alone:

  • The Obama administration's policy towards Iran
  • A live performance of Big Star's "Third" album
  • Finding good Mexican food in Eugene, Oregon
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.