What is paresis?

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

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: paresis.

I almost tried to write today’s post in rhyming couplets. This is because my word of the week comes from the marvellous rhyming novel Love, Dishonour, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish written by David Rakoff.

So clever and so compelling and so…completely filled with rhyme… I thought a post in verse would honour Rakoff’s achievement. Alas, an anonymous reviewer on Amazon had beaten me to the punch, writing:

If I told literary types I wasn’t a fan of Rakoff
They’d probably swear and tell me to back off
`He’s truly amazing, we all agree, can’t you hear us?’
I’d argue that he’s a little too much like Sedaris

But this novel, for some reason, it grabbed me
I read it all night, losing sleep gladly
Rakoff crafted something unique and quite new
A true work of art before the his final adieu.

(For more, read the entire review here.)

The word “adieu,” refers to Rakoff’s untimely death in 2012, from cancer, at the age of 47. I am sad that we lost this marvellously gifted author so early and even sorrier that I was unfamiliar with his work while he was alive. This quirky, interesting novel is hard work to read — the challenge of reading rhyming couplets is greater than it appears — especially when they are written by someone with Rakoff’s erudition. But I found the book engaging and charming and I intend to read it again.

Now, for my word of the week: paresis. It comes from the following lines:

The threats go on for hours. At long last he ceases
And stumbling, half-blind in his boozy paresis.
He crossed the room and falls into the bed.

Paresis denotes a slight or partial paralysis. The noun comes from the Greek word paresis meaning “letting go, slackening of strength, paralysis,” from the stem of parienai, meaning “to let go.”

The world let go of David Rakoff far too soon. 

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