Thursday, May 1, 2008

Rather Than Have Her Riddles Answered

Indications that this brand new month of May will make for a pleasant 31 days: I just found out that’s A.Word.A.Day feature is this week focusing on words drawn from mythological sources. That's a nice foot to start out on.

Indications that May will be full of strange coincidences: As of early this morning, today’s word, “sphinx” is illustrated with a quote from a Washington Post article on convicted D.C. madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey, whose suicide didn’t make news until about 10 a.m. today. “Deborah Jeane Palfrey is unreadable, a sphinx, she covers her mouth when she whispers to her attorney to shield against lip readers.” That’s how Wordsmith quotes Monica Hesse, writer of the article “A Slash of Scarlet in a Gray Court.” The quote seems especially prophetic when you remember that the mythological sphinx — the female, Theban one, not the one who’s hung out in Egypt for so many years — killed herself when Oedipus finally solved her riddle. I remember the version of the story in which she tossed herself off a cliff in shame upon being rendered less mysterious, though Wikipedia also notes an alternate, less kid-friendly version, in which she actually devoured herself.

Hesse’s article, by the way, features some of the better writing I’ve come across in recent months.