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Graced with Attic salt

Posted by Smokey Stover on May 21, 2009 at 02:34

In Reply to: Graced with Attic salt posted by R. Berg on May 20, 2009 at 14:47:

: : : : : : I've been doing some genealogy research. Looking through a hometown newspaper -- March 1970 -- I found this filler:

: : : : : : His speech was graced with Attic salt is used to mean a certain wit or vigor of style in writing in reference to the superior quality attributed to Athenian works. The Roman style was heavier, less spirited.

: : : : : : Anyone know what "Attic salt" means?

: : : : : It is a subtle, refined wit supposedly characteristic of (ancient) Athenians.

: : : : : DFG

: : : : I should, perhaps, have added that 'salt' because it added a certain 'something' to one's speech, and 'Attic' was a variation of Athenian.

: : : : DFG

: : : Greece is divided into peripheries. The periphery which contains Athens is Attica.

: : Thanks. It's going to be hard working this into a conversation.

: Right. I myself would go for "growlery" instead. ~rb
Regard the following as an expansion of what David has written above. It's from the Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. Attic:

"Attic salt or wit (L. sal Atticum): refined, delicate, poignant wit. . .

1633 Batt. Lutzen in Harl. Misc. (Malh.) IV. 185 Written in a stile so attick..that it may well be called the French Tacitus. 1738 POPE Epil. Sat. II. 85 While Roman Spirit charms, and Attic Wit. 1760 STERNE Tr. Shandy V. iii, Triumph swam in my father's eyes, at the repartee: the Attic salt brought water into them. , , ,"

Athenian literary style is "Marked by simple and refined elegance, pure, classical." (OED)

The OED, s.v. salt, gives, as one definition:

"3c. That which gives life or pungency to discourse or written composition; poignancy of expression; pungent wit; † point. . .

"1573-80 BARET Alv. s.v., Salte, a pleasaunt and mery worde that maketh folke to laugh and sometimes pricketh. 1609 Shaks.'s Tr. & Cr. Ep. (Qo. 1), So much and such sauored salt of witte is in his Commedies, that [etc.]. 1639 MAYNE City Match II. iii, She speaks with salt, And has a pretty scornefulnesse. . . 1894 K. GRAHAME Pagan Papers 120 We could not discover any salt in them [sc. the witticisms]."

Go, David!