#730…sci, relig, ETC: “As to Our Erstwhile Posts”


As to




We’re hiding this one behind the DOOR.




   Try this one¹ on your pianola: “Capitalism’s Grand Vizier, Donald Trump, erstwhile collector of professional football teams, glitzy casinos, and gold-plated urban palaces, on Monday announced his latest addition to the global Monopoly board: the world’s tallest building.”

   The trouble with that bouncy sentence lies in erstwhile. The point of the story was that Trump was continuing to collect these things. All that was meant by erstwhile is “in the past” or “former.” At the time the item appeared, Trump wasn’t erst at all. He was very much with us, late and soon.

   Erstwhile is one of those words affected by academics and editorial writers. When they hire erstwhile they are putting on the dog. Others use erstwhile as a put-on word a play-pretend word, a comic pretension by people who think they are funny. In the same silly cluster is quondam, which means the same thing: former. If you really want to get truly into knickers and old sleeve-sprung jackets, you may say that Jimmy Carter is a whilom president. People will look at you oddly, and well they may. All three words–erstwhile, quondam, and whilom–are words beloved only by second raters and other losers. Purge them.

   There is good news here, however: Erstwhile, quondam, and whilom are all legitimate Scrabble words. (Don’t let “vizier” or “glitzy” or “pianola” escape your Scrabble memory bank either.)


   ¹ Except for the final paragraph, this was taken entirely from James J. Kilpatrick’s, Fine Print: Reflections on the Writing Art (Andrews and McMeel, 1993). Kilpatrick’s delightful syndicated column was distributed erstwhile by Universal Press Syndicate. Boldface, color, and some use of italics we meddled with.

Author: John Knapp