Great critics are distinguished by their vocabularies, and I stomach criticism — writing that exists essentially as ventilation — for the sake of encountering colorful, crunchy words that distract from the gassy opinions. I surmise that the words “wu-wei” and “esemplastic” originally struck me from either a critical piece or a listicle expressly composed to celebrate terms of certain appeal to word nerds. (If you self-identify, I recommend listening to Lexicon Valley, as I do, and cherishing your friendships with lingua-Anglophiles who enliven text exchanges with such as “ticketyboo” and “dodgepot”.)
Wu-wei: success without effort. Inner simplicity maintained through external action performed, translating to environmental harmony, deriving from Chinese Taoist understandings. There are other iterations I’ve observed in passing such as in a photo of Charles Bukowski’s tombstone. My personal commitment to non-doing ensures minimal familiarity with the vast majority of datums I might know.
…hard to define. Nobody uses it. It’s awkward, having never withstood the rigors of conversational popularity which might’ve forced its evolution to elegance, brevity, and flow in English. It’s opaque, to me, prefix and root suggesting little.
Its invention is ascribed to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who strained to communicate the superiority of imagination to fancy. Should you find yourself in the company of more than a few decades’ literary scholarship, you may use the word “esemplastic” to characterize work that synthesizes into significant originality diverse and disparate influences. Essentially, don’t worry about this word. Focus instead on cultivating your emoji literacy. 😌
Graphics derived from chapbook