Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Yanked Up From the Ground

After the fact, I know, but here it is anyway: I closed 2012 by watching the little-remembered film version of Play It as It Lays. I enjoyed it even if it cast a shadow over the end of the year.


It’s not a film you’d watch to feel happy, but it’s beautiful, in the way a windy, dusty day in a bad corner of California can still seem beautiful. I keep thinking about it — the notion of Maria Wyeth still playing even though she knows there’s no way to win, even though it’s raining on a cemented-over backyard, where nothing will grow. And it’s in that sense of a foiled harvest that the film uses a certain word — a word I had to look up, because I hadn’t heard it before.

It’s my first word of 2013.
deracinate (dee-RASS-en-ate) — verb: 1. uproot 2. to remove or separate from a native environment or culture; especially: to remove the racial or ethnic characteristics or influences from.
From the French déraciner, meaning about the same and coming from the Late Latin radicina, the diminutive of radix, which Etymonline points out is also the word that gives us radish. It’s one of those inherently beautiful words, I say, even if it means something awful. The metaphorical meaning might let you forget that a plant, when uprooted, can’t survive. Humans do, however. Or at least Maria, that stubborn Southern California radish, manages to survive.

It’s a good word. Thanks for that, Joanie.

It seems that Play It as It Lays is so poorly remembered, in fact, that good images from it are hard to find online. But I do have this:

Yes, that’s Anthony Perkins’s head, unceremoniously cropped into the bottom corner. Honestly, it’s probably the least indicative frame possible, lacing Tuesday Weld and all, but I can attest that it’s from the movie.

That’s it.

Previous words of the week after the jump.


  1. Anonymous11:46 AM

    And I thought that I was the only person to remember that movie.
    -Red Snifit

    1. Well, I remember it in that I just saw it a few weeks ago. I actually didn't know it existed until recently. But it is interesting how it's not widely remembered, because it's actually a well-made film. Abstract, yes, but totally not out of place among the independent films of today.

  2. Actually it is the first film from your "list" I have watched. For the taste in old school movies, for sure, your site is the right place to visit.

    1. Thanks. I'm not totally sure what list you're referring to, but if I can convince anyone to watch old movies outside the top 40, I'm happy.