Talc Éclat

Éclat is one of those French words for which there is no precise equivalent in English. We take it to mean great brilliance in performance or achievement. Verve and dash come close but do not quite express éclat, hence we use éclat itself for that which is, we might say, essentially éclatty.

Talc éclat is brilliance of performance or achievement when one is liberally sprinkled with talc. But woe betide he who aims for talc éclat when the liberal sprinkling of talc is too liberal! In her Casebooks, the pioneer of palindromic presentation Dot Tod tells the sorry tale of a certain Arturo H., who was intent on cutting a dash in a display of talc éclat:

It was a Thursday afternoon, and Arturo H., a citizen of the Swiss canton of Aargau, was preparing himself for a performance of talc éclat. He had recently witnessed a breathtaking display by an itinerant talc éclattist, and believed he could do better, and dazzle the people of Aargau as they had never been dazzled before.

And so, standing in his boudoir, Arturo H. sprinkled himself liberally with talc. But oh!, the liberality of his sprinkling was excessively liberal. He only ceased sprinkling when his talc container was empty, and even then he went fossicking in his many, many cupboards for more talc. He found a small residue of talc in a majolica bowl, and sprinkled that on himself too.

Eventually satisfied, Arturo H. preened before his mirror and then made his way downstairs, opened his front door, and stepped into the boulevard. It was an important boulevard thronged with citizens of Aargau walking hither and thither. At sight of the excessively talc-sprinkled Arturo H,. however, people came to a standstill. They thought they saw a ghost, and not just any ghost but an albino ghost – the terrible albino ghost of ancient Aargau legend, of whom stories were told to frighten children throughout the canton. Some people on the boulevard swooned away in fright. A few, emboldened by fear, attacked the “ghost”, bashing Arturo H. relentlessly with their Alpenstocks. He crumpled on the paving slabs in a dry white puddle of talcum powder, in which soon was mingled the red of his precious life-blood, forming a pinkish pool of unutterable Aargau horror.

Dot Tod adds a note to this cautionary tale, advisng would-be practitioners of talc éclat that “a light dusting of talc is surely sufficient”. Wise words, from one who knows – for what Dot Tod does not say is that Arturo H. was her much-loved Papa, who had dandled her on his knee when she was but a tot, and told her frightful tales of the albino ghost of ancient Aargau.

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