Sometimes it is Greek: Repartee

Each week, “It’s not GREek!” will discuss a new word likely to appear on the GRE.  We aim not only to give you a new word to memorize, but also to provide you with some background and etymological history to help you remember it.  At the end of the post, we will also give you a sentence with a few other new words to add to your flash cards.  By following this weekly series, you should be more prepared than ever to tackle the sentence completion, sentence equivalencies, and reading comprehension questions on test day.

This Week’s Word:  Repartee

Nice repartee

A repartee is a swift, witty retort or a conversation marked by a series of such retorts.  In colloquial English, a repartee is simply a clever comeback.

Like sobriquet, repartee also has French origins.  It comes from the French word “repartie,” means the same thing and is even pronounced the same way.  Leave it to the French to come up with a word for witty comebacks.

There are many stories of repartee throughout the ages.  Here are a couple highlights:

Dorothy Parker, writer and member of the Algonquin Round Table:  Upon hearing that the taciturn Calvin Coolidge had died, she asked, “How can they tell?”

Nancy Astor, the first woman to take a seat in Parliament:  At a dinner party in 1912, Lady Astor became annoyed at an inebriated Churchill, and blurted out “Winston, if you were my husband, I’d put poison in your coffee.”  Churchill famously replied, “Nancy, if you were my wife, I’d drink it.”

More recently, when Jennifer Lopez was asked what she got on her SATs, she replied, “Nail polish.”

Sample Sentence:

The resilient reprobate remorselessly regaled his restive audience with his ribald repartees.

Miss last week’s “Sometimes it is Greek?” Check it out here.  Want more GRE vocabulary? Click here for the free TestMasters GRE vocabulary list with over 2,000 words!

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