ImpossibleUsage

Around our house one of the most quoted lines from the movie The Princess Bride (by William Goldman) is the response of Inigo Montoya to Vizzini's trademark refrain, "Inconceivable!":

"You keep using that word --- I do not think it means what you think it means."

In a related vein a few centuries earlier, Henry Fielding in Book XII of The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling riffs on the term "impossible" (Chapter xi, "The disasters which befel Jones on his departure for Coventry; with the sage remarks of Partridge"):

Jones now declared that they must certainly have lost their way; but this the guide insisted upon was impossible; a word which, in common conversation, is often used to signify not only improbable, but often what is really very likely, and, sometimes, what hath certainly happened; an hyperbolical violence like that which is so frequently offered to the words infinite and eternal; by the former of which it is usual to express a distance of half a yard, and by the latter, a duration of five minutes. And thus it is as usual to assert the impossibility of losing what is already actually lost. This was, in fact, the case at present; for, notwithstanding all the confident assertions of the lad to the contrary, it is certain they were no more in the right road to Coventry, than the fraudulent, griping, cruel, canting miser is in the right road to heaven.

(see also CatfightClub (5 Sep 2003), FlagranteDelictoPhilosopher (19 Sep 2003), AntientCommons (3 Nov 2003), PilingOn (18 Nov 2003), ProfessionalVsPrivateLife (25 Nov), ... )


TopicLiterature - TopicHumor - Datetag20031204


(correlates: SanguineDisposition, SubtopicTomJones, PilingOn, ...)