Who uses it: Musicians
What it means: In vocal music, a line of melody or counterpoint above the tenor part; in instrumental music, the treble line, or the highest line of a harmony.
How you can use it: When taking the high road of an argument.
Something about this word really pleases me; the image in my mind is of something graceful flying above, lighting down occasionally. I'm listening to Handel's Messiah, which has some lovely examples of descant.
It's not the holiday season without the Messiah, and it wouldn't be Christmas without a Christmas pageant, so I'm heading down to Freeport this afternoon to see my four-year-old friend Grace play -- I think -- a cow. (I say "I think," because when I last talked to her, she didn't want to be a cow, and was holding out for the role of donkey. So we'll see.)
Mary Maschino, the Bragdons and I drove up to Waterville last night to see Capote. Somber, but brilliant, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman is amazing. In the movie's key scene, Capote says to his childhood friend, Nelle Harper Lee (a classically beautiful Catherine Keener), "Perry [the killer Perry Smith] and I were born in the same house... and he walked out the back door, and I walked out the front." Capote's time with Perry Smith, researching In Cold Blood, forced him to confront the hollowness of his own soul -- the depths of his own monstrosity -- and he never recovered.