“…the truth was reveled…”

This is a description of a moment in the sex scandal that churned around, or was churned up around, President Clinton. The excerpt above is only one aspect:

“Recently the President of the United States addressed the nation in what appeared to be an honest speech denying any charges brought against him. However, within the preceding weeks the truth was reveled and the President was the subject of many reticules.”

First sentence, okay! The writer even embeds relevant doubt by means of that “what appeared to be an honest speech” part: good for him. But take a deep breath, because there’s more (just as there was at the time).

“Within the preceding weeks” clearly should be “within the following weeks,” or “within the weeks that followed,” or, perhaps what he was aiming at, “within the succeeding weeks.” That third choice is ambivalent, and a straight-talking writer should therefore avoid it, although I do like the punny implication it would carry that something about those weeks was very successful indeed.

“The truth was reveled.” “To revel” means “to carouse” or “to take intense satisfaction.” A “revel” is “a wild party or celebration.” Remembering the Impeachment Circus, I can’t help but find apt the association of revelry with the facts as they were revealed. “Revel” has no passive usage, according to Webster’s Collegiate; but if we just add a preposition we might get away with it: “the truth was reveled at,” “the truth was reveled over.”

Ah, but those reticules: no excuse for them. He was the subject of much ridicule. “Ridicule” is not pluralized, at least in my experience, so the President could not have been the subject of many ridicules, unless some scholar wanted to discriminate among a number of varieties of ridicule and bend the language for that purpose.

“Reticule,” on the other hand, is a thing, and to reflect a quantity of that thing we do use the plural—”many reticules.” For those not up on the fiction or social history of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when these objects had their heyday under this name: a reticule is a type of handbag or carry-all, originally mesh or net, with a drawstring closure. My grandmother sometimes referred to large purses even without drawstrings as reticules. Well, I don’t think President Clinton was the subject of many handbags…

…although I do have to confess to a sudden mental video of Ruth Buzzi, as Gladys Ormphby, beating Arte Johnson’s Dirty Old Man Tyrone F. Horneigh over the head with her purse after one of his lewd approaches. Hmm. Let my mother stand in for Ruth and put Bill Clinton in Arte’s overcoat, with Republicans reveling all around, and you get a not-inaccurate picture of at least her fantasy in response to the news.

Students. You never know with them. In this passage, three blatant errors—but two of them add up, on some level that the writer never contemplated or intended, to an accurate picture.

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About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

2 responses to ““…the truth was reveled…”

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