Notes: Of the Effable


“BUT, OF COURSE,” Arthur Quinn writes in his book Figures of Speech, “there are few things about which more has been said and written than the ineffable.”

Among those few things, we might assume, is the effable. But do we, in fact, speak or write about the effable, as such, very often? Don’t we rather take it for granted? And yet—shall I compare the effable to a summer’s day? No, for the effable is so much more referential.

Without the ineffable we could get along. In fact, we would have a far clearer notion of what, if anything, we were trying to get along to. But where would we be without the effable? We would be constantly moping or musing (hard to tell which), like certain people I could name; no, thank you.

Of course you can say that everything is ultimately (so to speak) ineffable: that to keep on focusing harder, as we for some ineffable reason do, is to see every solution dissolve. But when you’ve said that, you’ve said a mouthful.

Some effable things:

• Cheerfulness.

• Making a deal, sticking to it.

• Pitter-patter of little feet.

• The pertinence here of the euphemism “effing.”

• Footsie.

• The blues.

—Roy Blount, Jr.