Talk:L'esprit de l'escalier

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"esprit de l'escalier" is described in Paradoxe sur le comédien, but the phrase itself isn't there. "escalier" only occurs once in the phrase "au bas de l’escalier". However, I don't know of any other source for "esprit de l'escalier". --Kylenano 08:13, 11 August 2006 (UTC)

esprit d'escalier[edit]

I am not familiar with the use of esprit d'escalier to describe the actual riposte (as stated in the second paragraph of the entry). Can someone give me an example of this usage? In my experience, its use is limited to describing the predicament of thinking of the riposte too late (e.g. "This is an esprit d'escalier moment") or more often, at least in French, to the quality of often thinking too late of rejoinders ("J'ai l'esprit d'escalier" = "I often think of witty retorts after the fact").


—Preceding unsigned comment added by 222.154.32.254 (talk) 02:18, 21 October 2008 (UTC)

The saying is actually "l'esprit d'escalier", and not "de l'escalier".

I thought so, but second-guessed myself because my French is rusty. Feeeshboy 07:05, 15 August 2006 (UTC)
Now I'm not so sure. A google search reveals more hits for "... de l'escalier" than for "... d'escalier." I guess it's fine as is. Feeeshboy 03:36, 16 August 2006 (UTC)
Actually in French the saying is definitely "l'esprit d'escalier" and not "de l'escalier".
NO

I confirmed that in French the saying is definitely "l'esprit d'escalier" and not "de l'escalier".
In french " l' " stands for " le " or " la " when it's followed by a word starting with a vowel.
In french " de le " doesn't exists. It's contracted into " de " only for male genre words.
Same thing for " de l' " when the following word starts with a vowel and is male genre, it's contracted into " d' ".
I understand that English speaking people might missuse the french expression, anyway I think Wikipedia should try to correct this missuse. 12:57, 18 October 2006 (UTC)VID


I am french, both sayings are unknowns to me, but where "l'esprit d'escalier" make escalier an epithet (thinking like a staircase ?) the only far fetched meaning could be deducive mind which is "esprit de deduction", whereas "l'esprit de l'escalier" as "the staircase's spirit" make l'escalier an independent entity who "whistle blow" the "proper, defending answer", even in vieux français with esprit as wit it reads as the wit found on the staircase.

  • It has to be L'esprit d'escalier. Can anybody ask an admin to move the page? I'm too tired right now... Henning Blatt 22:53, 4 December 2006 (UTC)
    • After reading the reasoning behind this, my rudimentary french education agrees with L'esprit d'escalier. It makes more grammatical sense too. --69.156.91.158 04:18, 19 March 2007 (UTC)
      • Pretty sure it's "L'esprit de l'escalier." That seems to be what the native French speaker above is advocating. And I'm not sure about this, but it seems like I remember that de le usually becomes du, but you don't use d' for du, only de. Or something to that effect. -- 66.135.149.195 23:50, 21 March 2007 (UTC)

"Esprit d'escalier" and "esprit de l'escalier" are both grammatical in French. The first means "staircase wit" and the second means "wit of the staircase". Both forms appear to occur in French with the required meaning. "Esprit d'escalier" strikes me as better, however. Difficult to say why
The grammatical difference between the two forms is that in "esprit de l'escalier" the word "escalier" is preceded by the definite article; in "esprit d'escalier", it is not. The first expression feels similar to an English compound noun, the second to an English noun phrase.
The page should be moved to "esprit d'escalier", removing the definite article not only from "escalier", but also from "esprit" (for independent reasons).

--Gheuf 06:14, 18 April 2007 (UTC)

I would suggest that perhaps it doesn't matter what would be best according to French grammar, as the phrase is no longer used in French. What's more important is the way it's most commonly used in English. Grammatically correct or not, that's the phrase being referred to. Feeeshboy 06:21, 18 April 2007 (UTC)
But it is! I grew up in France and used "l'esprit d'escalier" since a young age. However I agree that it is more often used in this form in English.Thermaland 09:49, 2 May 2007 (UTC)

In case anybody cares at this late date, it's in the Oxford English Dictionary under "esprit" along with "esprit du corps". They show it both ways, with quotations from Fowler (d'escalier) and Bellow (de l'escalier) and others. They show the French esprit d'escalier from Diderot, Paradoxe sur le Comédien. It looks like the French of it is d'escalier, as you would expect, and that is the one I'll use from now on, but the other cannot be said to be "wrong", like. It's a pity we didn't name the article the French way, but it's a tossup in English, and no real harm done. Thank God for redirects. There is no excuse for the "L'" in the name, though. --Milkbreath (talk) 15:13, 9 August 2009 (UTC)

Well, in case anybody cares at this late date, the French WP entry is "l'esprit DE L'escalier". As some have said, both forms are grammatically correct, though with a slightly different meaning. However, contrarily to Thermaland above, I have never heard this expression in about 30 years (since my birth actually, and yes, in France, and I have been a book addict for a long while though…), so I couldn't say which one is the most used. "L'esprit d'escalier" would emphasize that such a wit happens mainly in stairs, which I find a bit weird, while "l'esprit de l'escalier" would be a more generic term, so personally I would use the latter. Skippy le Grand Gourou (talk) 13:10, 25 September 2009 (UTC)
Also "in case anybody cares at this late date", the 1993 paper(!) Nouveau Petit Robert reads: avoir l'esprit de l'escalier (ou d'escalier) . . . Awien (talk) 00:06, 10 November 2009 (UTC)

2007-02-7 Automated pywikipediabot message[edit]

--CopyToWiktionaryBot 06:47, 7 February 2007 (UTC)

Feeeshboy, your comment is indented as a reply to mine, but it is difficult to see the connection with what I wrote. You write that "esprit d'escalier" is not used in French and that it doesn't matter whether either expression is grammatical in French; I write that "esprit d'escalier" IS still used in France and that BOTH expressions are grammatical. Did you mean to reply to someone else?--Gheuf 15:44, 2 May 2007 (UTC)

Relevancy of treppenwitz.com[edit]

Doesn't this blog link fail both the relevance, and notability guidelines of WP:EL? Just because it has the same name as the subject… --Adoniscik (talk) 14:13, 11 March 2008 (UTC)

I believe so. If the blog merits its own article, then it someone ought to write one, but the body of this article is not the place for "other uses." If there is no specific reason we should connect the blog with the term other than the name, then this info should be in a disambig, and not in the article. Feeeshboy (talk) 02:18, 12 March 2008 (UTC)
While the blog in question is linked from several hundred other blogs/web sites as well as a few main stream media sources (The Jerusalem Post being arguably the most prominent), treppenwitz.com is certainly not as well known or referenced as instapundit or similar 1st tier blogs. However, the stated intent of the author of treppenwitz.com (on his 'about me' page) was to use the site to record the insights that occurred to him 'after the fact' once they were really no longer timely or relevant. This delayed insight is the reason for the choice of the blog's name. Having said that, given that Google and several of the other top search engines identify this blog as the most linked and referenced use of the word treppenwitz, it does, IMHO have sufficient relevance to be cited on the page dealing with the word, albeit lower on the page. It should also be noted that no adjectives or superlatives (e.g. popular, widely read, etc.) have been used to describe the blog or its author as such would certainly be irrelevant to the meaning of the word. johnnybeeline (talk) 08:46, 13 March 2008 (UTC)
I was quite pleased to see the addition of a popular reference section for this page as the blog by the same name rightly belongs there and not in the definition. As one of the most trafficked/linked blogs on the web, the treppenwitz blog certainly passes the notability test. If you disagree, please state your reasons. Summarily deleting page content seems high handed and is not what I've come to expect of Wikipedia. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Johnnybeeline (talkcontribs) 21:40, 23 July 2008 (UTC)
We've been down this road before, and that's the only reason for my "summarily" deleting the mention. This has been removed by numerous editors for its lack of notability and relevance, and placing it in a Popular Culture section doesn't resolve these issues or justify treating your edit as anything other than a third revert. Personally, I'd be happy to keep the content if there were any proof of its notability and relevance, but rather than finding a source to back up these claims, you have simply chosen to reinsert the same content that was deleted. Feeeshboy (talk) 16:00, 24 July 2008 (UTC)

popular culture[edit]

Do we really need a list of all the mentions of this thing?Mezigue (talk) 08:39, 4 September 2008 (UTC)

No we don't, so I've been bold and removed the section. --antilivedT | C | G 09:23, 4 September 2008 (UTC)
They are slowly returning! I think the Seinfeld episode is fine as it's entirely about it (I think) but let's not rebuild a list of every mere reference to it please. It is of no interest. Mezigue (talk) 08:08, 15 April 2009 (UTC)

I haven't seen the episode, but unless it mentions the phrase explicitly and prominently, does it add to the article at all? Although Seinfeld is a very popular sitcom, it still (probably) isn't widely watched enough that the specific episode has been watched by anywhere near a majority of the readers of the article, non?

129.67.180.4 (talk) 22:50, 4 September 2010 (UTC)

But doesn't the 'jerk store' example help people understand what you're talking about, even if you haven't seen the episode? — Preceding unsigned comment added by 220.239.67.122 (talk) 10:21, 17 June 2011 (UTC)

You know, one could also mention how there's this Duran Duran song called "Last Chance on the Stairway" which is all about this phenomenon and how the protagonist comes up against it when encountering a beautiful woman at a party. Not only is the song title a direct reference to the saying "l'esprit d'escalier" and has helped inform many people of said saying, the song itself is located in the band's best-selling album of all time, 1982's Rio. So there are millions upon millions of album buyers who have a familiarity with this song, and even casual Duran fans will be keenly aware of this song. Does this count as a notable example of "l'esprit d'escalier" when it comes to popular culture references? 69.149.105.46 (talk) 04:54, 12 March 2012 (UTC)
I have now deleted the whole section because it kept rebuilding into a random list of references. There wasn't really a point to it. Mezigue (talk) 10:21, 12 March 2012 (UTC)

Equivalent Phrases[edit]

"Cab thoughts", i.e. the response or rejoinder that occurs to one in the taxi cab ride away from the encounter, is an equivalent phrase used by some Americans. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 160.79.34.2 (talk) 14:09, 9 August 2009 (UTC)

I first heard this phrase (cab thoughts) from Charna Halpern, improv comedy teacher and author in Chicago. I'm not coming up with much on it in a quick Googling, though. Has anyone else heard of it? —Preceding unsigned comment added by 160.79.34.2 (talk) 16:01, 9 August 2009 (UTC)

Translation of French "sensible" into English[edit]

In translation between two languages, some words are cognates, i.e. they look the same and have the same meaning, for example table/table (French in italics). Some words are false cognates, i.e. they look the same but have different meanings, for example car which corresponds to English ‘inter-city bus’, not ‘car’.

Sensible is a false cognate which corresponds to English ‘sensitive’, not ‘sensible’. Here are the relevant dictionary definitions of sensible/sensitive and sensible/raisonnable from the Petit Robert and the Concise Oxford respectively, which demonstrate clearly the appropriate translations in this group of words.


French sensible: (personnes): capable de sentiment, d’une vie affective intense; apte à ressentir profondément les impressions et à y intéresser sa personne toute entière

English sensitive: having sensibility to, very open to or acutely affected by external impressions esp. those made by the moods or opinions of others in relation to oneself


English sensible (skipping archaic uses): of good sense, reasonable, judicious, moderate, practical

French raisonnable (courant): Qui pense selon la raison, se conduit avec bon sens et mesure, d’une manière réfléchie


If you are a Babelfish user who can’t read a French dictionary definition, you should not be attempting translation in the first place, including not altering translations made by those who actually know what they are doing. Thank you. Awien (talk) 16:10, 28 November 2010 (UTC)

Treppenwitz ≠ l'esprit de l'escalier! Unless ...[edit]

However things may be in French and in France, the German "Treppenwitz" does not convey the same meaning as the English (or French) "l'esprit de l'escalier". Though "Treppenwitz" is a translation of the French term, the contemporary meaning of the German word is quite different. The most comprehensive and authoritative dictionary of the German language DUDEN - Das große Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache in zehn Bänden gives an adequate definition: "(iron.) Vorfall, der wie ein schlechter Scherz wirkt." (in English: "(ironically) Incident, that appears like a bad joke.")

The term is often used in phrases like "Treppenwitz der Weltgeschichte" (staircase joke of world history) or "Treppenwitz der Geschichte" (staircase joke of history), referring to

a. incidents or facts, that seem to contradict their own historical background or context. An example: The support, the Taliban received from the US-Gouvernment before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, could be called "ein Treppenwitz der Geschichte".

b. incidents or facts, that appear insignificant in themselves, but have had great impact on history.

Completely in line with this, Langenscheidt's Großes Schulwörterbuch translates "Treppenwitz" as "silly joke" and "Treppenwitz der Weltgeschichte" as "paradox of history".

To understand this, one should know that "Witz", though it can still mean "wit", in most cases means "joke" nowadays (wit -> witty remark -> joke). Thus, the contemporary German speaker, if he doesn't happen to know the etymology of the term, will probably interpret "Treppenwitz" as "a little joke (or funny remark), that one makes meeting ones neighbour on the stairs" - that is to say, a simple or even silly joke or remark, that occurs to you spontaneously. - The profound jokes and remarks, as l'esprit de l'escalier reminds us, usually come to mind when it's too late ...
--D'Aspromonte (talk) 21:29, 10 December 2010 (UTC)

That's exactly what "Treppenwitz" means ... a joke (or any other witty remark) that only occurs to you when you are on your way down the stairs and can no longer deliver it. It has taken on the additional meaning of a stale or misplaced joke (for whatever reason), hence the "Treppenwitz der Geschichte" (bad joke of history). But of course any native speaker of German (of my age, anyway ...) will be acutely aware of the origin of the term. Maribert (talk) 23:17, 24 June 2011 (UTC)
Thank you for this interesting clarification, D'Aspromonte. Do feel free to go ahead and modify the article accordingly. Du darfst! (?) Awien (talk) 21:54, 10 December 2010 (UTC)


Hello Awien! I know that I darf, but I'm not at all shure that I kann. In other words: I'm a native German speaker and I don't want to correct the contents of an article at the (likely) cost of ruining it's grammar. But having provided the necessary information, I'm shure someone else could do the job.
--D'Aspromonte (talk) 00:04, 11 December 2010 (UTC)
Well, it certainly looks as if you "kannst" too, but since you're reluctant, I'll do it and you can check up on me ^_- Awien (talk) 02:06, 11 December 2010 (UTC)
Maybe you can sort out the ref that won't work for me?!? Gute nacht! Awien (talk) 02:31, 11 December 2010 (UTC)


I'm sorry, but I can't help you with the {ref} at all, since Wikipedia is still quite new for me.
However, I can confirm that the Yiddish trepverter has the same meaning as l'esprit de l'escalier, and I've found an online source for it too (see below).

As for the German Treppenwitz however, I can now see that I haven't really given all the necessary information, i.e. things are a bit more complicated. The translation of Treppenwitz as "silly joke", though correct in itself, is rather misleading if it doesn't go with an additional clarification, and my own explanation of the contemporary interpretation of Treppenwitz was only meant to show how it is understood nowadays, not how it is used.

A few examples should make things clearer:

You cannot say: *"Oh please, don't tell me one of your Treppenwitze [meaning: silly jokes] again!"

But you could say (I use an example taken from real life): "He went to the hospital for an EGD, but the doctors messed it all up and caused him an injury to the gullet. In the end he had to stay at the hospital for two weeks, and now - what a beaurocratic Treppenwitz - they sent him a bill for all the treatment he needed; instead of offering him a compensation!" As you can see, the context is similar to that of a.) of my initial comment, i.e. it is a paradoxical situation. As a rule, Treppenwitz is used for paradoxical situations. Another example: The curious etymology of the word schwa (for the mid-central vowel [ə]) is being called "ein sprachlicher Treppenwitz" (a linguistic staircase joke) in the German Wikipedia; see "Schwa (Hebräisch)" in the German WP or "Schwa" in the Englisch WP for details.

The book mentioned in the article, Der Treppenwitz der Weltgeschichte, was published in 1882, and the title refers to the tendency of embroidering historical events subsequently. Thus, the title still retains the original meaning of l'esprit de l'escalier, in the ironic sense of "historical events, that were made to appear more meaningful or more interesting than they seemed when they actually occurred." The book made popular the word Treppenwitz and, obviously, the respective phrase, but the general public mistook it's meaning, interpreting it as "a bad joke of world history".

Finally, I have to admit that I'm totally wrong: Browsing the internet, I found out that Treppenwitz, not as it is used in German, but as a German foreign word in English, does mean l'esprit de l'escalier!

o, to make a long story short, I'd suggest this text for the article:

The Yiddish trepverter ("staircase words") and the German loan translation Treppenwitz (when used in an English language context) express the same idea. However, Treppenwitz in contemporary German conveys a different meaning: It refers to events or facts that seem to contradict their own background or context. The frequently used phrase "Treppenwitz der Weltgeschichte" ("staircase joke of world history") derives from the title of a book of that name by W. Lewis Hertslet [use existing ref] and means "a paradox of history".

Not so. "Treppenwitz" in German can convey the same meaning as "esprit d'escalier". From the Wahrig German Dictionary, via http://wissen.de/, we see: "Trep|pen|witz m. 1 witzige oder treffende Antwort, die einem zu spät, sozusagen erst beim Gehen auf der Treppe, einfällt" -- funny or witty response that only occurs to you too late, like when going down the stairs. Maribert (talk) 23:17, 24 June 2011 (UTC)

[Sources: http://blogs.forward.com/the-arty-semite/126772/ (for trepverter); http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Treppenwitz ; DUDEN - Das große Wörterbuch der Deutschen Sprache in zehn Bänden, Mannheim 2000; Langenscheidts Großes Schulwörterbuch Englisch-Deutsch, Berlin, München 1977].

If you like, you could just check the grammar etc. of my text and put it into the article. However, now that I've defeated my own initial statement, one could simply leave the German meaning away, I don't know whether it's really relevant here …
--D'Aspromonte (talk) 20:00, 11 December 2010 (UTC)

I guess we have an Oops, but well done for pointing it out. As for whether the German is off-topic, I don't have strong feelings, but why don't you do the fix anyway. There's some justification for including it. I tweaked the wording a bit (homonymous sounded a bit strange) - your turn now! Awien (talk) 02:38, 12 December 2010 (UTC)
I've implemented the changes now, but put it all at the end of the article unter the new heading "Other languages". I suppose it's fine like this, because the original version didn't make it too clear that trepverter and Treppenwitz are being refered to as foreign words in English.
--D'Aspromonte (talk) 12:54, 12 December 2010 (UTC)
Very good! Giving it a separate section makes sense to me too. Also, congratulations on your English (if I may presume). The only thing that gave you away was a couple of commas used the German way. Best, Awien (talk) 13:45, 12 December 2010 (UTC)

As a native speaker of German, I can assure you that the German word "Treppenwitz" can refer to exactly what this article is about ... a clever come-back you only think about when it is too late to deliver it. It does have other connotations, but originally it means exactly the same as esprit d'escalier does. Maribert (talk) 22:57, 24 June 2011 (UTC)

Hello, Maribert.

Two things: First - please, look at your own source more closely. Then, you'll find that the meaning you are talking about begins with the indication "urspr." - meaning "ursprünglich" or "originally". Now, there is no doubt about the original meaning of the phrase. However, the assertion, that (virtually) every German speaker is aware of the original meaning is completely wrong, pure invention, and you'll certainly not find a source to back up that claim. You don't have to believe that, please just make the effort to check the sources given by D'Aspromonte. They are authoritative, and I don't find "your" meaning there, nor did I find it anywhere on the net. Secondly - it's bad style and rather confusing to put your own contributions all over the place in an already existing dialogue. In the future, please put them at the end. Thank you.

--93.82.125.188 (talk) 18:34, 18 September 2013 (UTC)