for a painting?? If you heard this week's episode of "A Way with Words,"
then you'll recall our discussion of the word Heliogabaline
, used by David Foster Wallace in his marvelous essay on English usage. It's an allusion to the wild-and-crazy Roman emperor Heliogabalus, who supposedly invited a bunch of guests to dinner and hid a massive amounts of rose petals behind a false ceiling, then let them fall -- smothering some of his guests. Heliogabalus became a darling of the Decadent Movement in the late 19th century. Here's the 1888 painting I mentioned, which depicts that scene. It's by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. (Click on the painting for a closer look; it's spectacular.)
Oh, and Wallace's use of Heliogabaline
? It's perfect: "The truth is that most US academic prose is appalling -- pompous, abstruse, claustral, inflated, euphuistic, pleonastic, solecistic, sesquipidelian, Heliogabaline, occluded, obscure, jargon-ridden, empty: resplendently dead." Anybody disagree?
By the way, that David Foster Wallace essay
is something that every language lover should gleefully dig into and savor once a year -- that and George Orwell's prescient piece, "Politics and the English Language."