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Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: euchred….
The sad, cautionary and yet deeply funny story of Lee Israel is one of my favourite memoirs. You may be more likely to remember Israel as she was played by actress Melissa McCarthy in a 2018 movie. But the story of the real life literary forger told in both the movie and the book Can You Ever Forgive Me? is not only funny and sad. It is also true.
To make enough money to live in New York City, Israel began forging an estimated 400 letters by deceased celebrities such as Dorothy Parker and Noel Coward. Later, she began stealing actual letters and autographed papers of famous people from libraries and archives, replacing them with forged copies she had made.
The story not only educated and entertained me, it also gave me a word of the week: euchred. Here is how Israel used it:
I remember Anna Sosenko, who loved my stories about her euchred colleagues, scoffing at my roughneck N [signature for Noel Coward], claiming it would never have passed muster with her.
I never played cards as a kid so perhaps I can be forgiven for not knowing that euchre is a card game played by two, three, or four persons. Euchre is an offshoot of Juckerspiel, a game that became widely popular throughout Europe during the Napoleonic era. In the 1800s, it became one of the most popular card games in America and Australia.
In any case, to euchre someone means to get the better of an opponent in a hand by the opponent’s failure to win three tricks after having made the trump. The slang meaning of the term is to cheat or swindle.
An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on May 29/19.