Perspicacity Jones

Words are funny things. A few years ago I came across the word “perspicacious.” I don’t think it had crossed my path before, so I just passed it in context and kept reading. And then  it showed up at least twice again over the course of the same book, so I gave in and looked it up.

Perspicacious: having keen mental perception and understanding.

Charming word. Fun to say. And today, for no apparent conscious reason, it popped back into my head again, and I couldn’t for the life of me remember what it meant. But my mind started playing games with it, tossing it around like a slinky, pulling it apart, squeezing it back together again, and all of a sudden it decided that the planet has been missing a very important literary figure named Perspicacity Jones. And when I looked up the word again, I was even more convinced.

Perspicacity Jones: gutsy, witty adventuress, possibly Australian, a sort of mesh of the best parts of Pippi Longstocking, Harriet the Spy, Indiana Jones and Sherlock Holmes (and just as much fun to say as Benedict Cumberbatch). I suppose she would have some sort of achilles heel—all heroes do…

But I have no idea what it is. Because she doesn’t exist yet. But she could. Maybe someday she will. Regardless, I’m sure I will never have to look that word up ever again.

As the brain slinky was roaming around, it remembered seeing a similar name somewhere, and, sure enough, courtesy of Terry Pratchett, there is actually a Miss Perspicacia Tick, witch finder and teacher of Tiffany Aching in Pratchett’s “Wee Free Men” books. Miss Tick is a witch finder in a good way, though, helpful to young girls born to be witches in areas where it’s unfavorable to be a witch, and is also an excellent practitioner of escape techniques when found out to be a witch herself. These are hilariously funny, wonderful, and rather wry books about young Tiffany’s road to becoming an extremely practical community witch, aided by a group of completely recalcitrant little blue men who will drink anything, fight anyone, and say a lot of things not repeatable in proper society. Can’t say enough great things about this series. Of course, people over the age of 18 probably shouldn’t be allowed to read these books.

Poor Joel Stein. He misses so much.

Categories: In the Lexicon | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Perspicacity Jones

  1. Will B

    I believe we HAVE had a Perspicacity Jones: my favorite author, George Orwell.

    Gutsy adventurer: He worked as a policeman in Burma. During the Spanish Civil War, he fought against fascism as an infantryman and was wounded in combat. Back in England, he worked as an investigative journalist, living as a homeless person and as working poor so he could report on the experience (which also produced several books). He also spent a good part of his life genuinely destitute and yet never despaired, even when lying gravely ill in a hospital for the poor in Paris (the source of his essay, “How the Poor Die”).

    Crusader: Besides his fighting against Fascism in Spain (he also tried to fight in WWII, but was rejected for medical reasons), Orwell was a prolific writer on the evils of society, current and potential. His outspokenness got him put under surveillance by British authorities for 20 years! Although best known for his cautionary tales “Nineteen Eight-Four” and “Animal Farm”, his social commentary in books like “The Road to Wigan Pier” and “Down and Out in Paris and London” called attention to the forgotten poor. He once wrote, “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written directly or indirectly against totalitarianism and for Democratic Socialism as I understand it.”

    Sheer perspicacity: The man wrote with insight on topics beyond politics and poverty. These included the English language, literary criticism, anti-Semitism, education — even how to make the perfect cup of tea (for which he has 11 steps). In his 1945 short essay, “What is Science?”, he asserts that “[a] scientific education ought to mean the implanting of a rational, sceptical, experimental habit of mind. It ought to mean acquiring a method — a method that can be used on any problem that one meets — and not simply piling up a lot of facts.”

    And for all the ink that has been spilled about the sources of happiness, only Orwell observes (through his main character in the novel “Keep the Aspidistra Flying”), “‘Don’t you understand that one isn’t a full human being — that one doesn’t feel a human being — unless one’s got money in one’s pocket?’”

    The qualification for being a Sherlock Holmes, besides the undercover reporting, is also met with Orwell’s essay “Decline of the English Murder”. In it he attempts to “construct what would be, from a News of the World reader’s point of view, the ‘perfect’ murder.”

    Then there is Orwell’s reasoning in the essay “The Sporting Spirit” that would have pleased Sherlock Holmes: “I am always amazed when I hear people saying that sport creates goodwill between the nations… . Even if one didn’t know from concrete examples (the 1936 Olympic Games, for instance) that international sporting contests lead to orgies of hatred, one could deduce it from general principles.” You can imagine Conan Doyle writing those very words into his Detective’s mouth.

    I therefore nominate George Orwell as “Perspicacity Jones”: adventurer, crusader, undercover reporter, man of letters, and tea enthusiast. Of course, he wasn’t Australian or female as you require, but I choose to overlook your Aussie sexism.

    If you would like to learn how to make an Orwellian cup of tea, you can read the complete, short essay at the URL below. If you follow his instructions, you are guaranteed a doubleplusgood cup of tea:

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