HELP!The word "edify" mystifies me!

gambheyhey

Senior Member
Chinese
FIVE STRAIGHT SATURDAY MORNINGS, Ginnie Mannox had played tennis at the East Side Courts with Selena Graff, a classmate at Miss Basehoar's. Ginnie openly considered Selena the biggest drip at Miss Basehoar's--a school ostensibly abounding with fair-sized drips--but at the same time she had never known anyone like Selena for bringing fresh cans of tennis balls. Selena's father made them or something. (At dinner one night, for the edification of the entire Mannox family, Ginnie had conjured up a vision of dinner over at the Graffs'; it involved a perfect servant coming around to everyone's left with, instead of a glass of tomato juice, a can of tennis balls.)

According to my understanding, the underlined sentence can be re-organized as "at dinner one night, for the edification of the entire Mannox family on how the dinner was like at the Graffs', Ginnie had conjured up a vision:............."

But I feel "edification" is too strong a word here, as Thesaurus defines it as "to instruct or benefit, esp. morally or spiritually; uplift". How do you feel about it?

Does it have other implication here? Maybe there's some jocosity or sarcasm intended?

Thanks.
 
  • idialegre

    Senior Member
    USA English
    There is sarcasm intended. "Edification," as you note, implies moral or educational benefit. But when Ginnie shares with her family her vision of dinner at Selena's house, it is purely for entertainment and to laugh at the Graff family. It is as if one might say, "And now for everyone's cultural benefit, I will do my world-famous imitation of Paris Hilton reciting Shakespeare."
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    FIVE STRAIGHT SATURDAY MORNINGS, Ginnie Mannox had played tennis at the East Side Courts with Selena Graff, a classmate at Miss Basehoar's. Ginnie openly considered Selena the biggest drip at Miss Basehoar's--a school ostensibly abounding with fair-sized drips--but at the same time she had never known anyone like Selena for bringing fresh cans of tennis balls. Selena's father made them or something. (At dinner one night, for the edification of the entire Mannox family, Ginnie had conjured up a vision of dinner over at the Graffs'; it involved a perfect servant coming around to everyone's left with, instead of a glass of tomato juice, a can of tennis balls.)

    According to my understanding, the underlined sentence can be re-organized as "at dinner one night, for the edification of the entire Mannox family on how the dinner was like at the Graffs', Ginnie had conjured up a vision:............."

    But I feel "edification" is too strong a word here, as Thesaurus defines it as "to instruct or benefit, esp. morally or spiritually; uplift". How do you feel about it?

    Does it have other implication here? Maybe there's some jocosity or sarcasm intended?

    Thanks.
    I agree with you. Edification is used rather too much in this sense, and adds a slack, conversational tone to the writing. Amusement would be much more precise, and a great improvement, to my ear.
     

    gambheyhey

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Thank you, idialegre and TT, and "amusement" would be much easier for translation too. We even have a fixed phrase for "for the amusement of" in Chinese. However, this is written by J.D Salinger, and I guess this old eccentric adorable hermit wouldn't allow the slightest change in his work.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The Oxford English Dictionary specifically mentions that the word edification ('Mental or moral improvement, intellectual profit; instruction.') is now often ironical. It is often used to refer to mere amusement, jocularly disguised as something more. Would you laugh at a child dressed as a teacher? So enjoy amusement dressed up as edification!
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Thank you, idialegre and TT, and "amusement" would be much easier for translation too. We even have a fixed phrase for "for the amusement of" in Chinese. However, this is written by J.D Salinger, and I guess this old eccentric adorable hermit wouldn't allow the slightest change in his work.
    No, he wouldn't. I know what you mean. Is it from one of the For Esmé with love and squalor stories?
     

    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    And, yet, the use of "edification" in this case amuses me far more than "amusement" would have. "Amusement" would be more precise, but anyone with sufficient education can write a precise sentence; like a finger exercise for the piano, anyone with nimble fingers can replicate it. But precision does not an artist make.
    "Conjured up a vision" might confuse some because it might literally refer to a magical apparition or hallucination, yet one cannot deny the charm of that phrase as used in the cited passage.
     
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