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Sara Beth West

(@fiftytwowest)

is a reader and a writer, offering book reviews and interviews with leading writers and thinkers.

The Lexicon - Invidious

One word, weekly. Found in a book. Shared with you.


Word: Invidious

Definition: (adj) tending to cause discontent, animosity or envy

Origin: L invidiosus envious, fr. invidia envy

Source: wife|daughter|self by Beth Kephart

There is an ache in your heart, a cunning shame, and among the things you don't discuss are these: . . . The invidious dangers of chemicals and flames

Many words I think I know until I look them up. Invidious is one I would have assumed lined up with its rhyming partner 'insidious,' and perhaps there is a conversation to be had about the overlaps there. As it happens, invidious sounds like what it means: the envy and the divide both present in the ear as you say it. As it also happens, this book is full of countless such sound-centered moments as well as those quiet revelations of dark harbors in the mind like envy.


Interesting, isn't it, the difference between admiration and envy? We don't always see it in that shortened version, but with invidious, the animosity rises up sure and strong. Not enough to deeply admire someone, this word demands you wish what they have for yourself so fiercely as to cause hatred or animosity. The word leans away from the good even as it craves it.


Kephart plays with language throughout this memoir, letting the sounds spill onto and over the edge of every page. She also empties her pockets of color and memory, pain and love. If I didn't so admire her bravery, I might be left with envy: a hollow, invidious vessel.


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