Tenebrous (also tenebrious)
Ten-uh-bruhs: Adjective: dark; gloomy; obscure; shadowy; hard to understand
From the Latin, tenebrae, darkness
Related forms: tenebrousness, noun; untenebrous, adjective; tenebrific, tenebricose, adjectives
Tenebrescence, also related, is a scientific process, also known as reversible photochromism, which is basically the ability of some minerals to change colour when exposed to sunlight, an effect that can be repeated indefinitely but which is destroyed by heating. You have almost certainly encountered this phenomenon, possibly without being aware of it, as tenebrescence is what photochromic lenses are up to when they darken through exposure to sunlight, by which, of course, we mean the good old self-adjusting sunglasses. From the same tenebrae root, we also get temerity, which means rashness or boldness in the sense of blindly, in the dark, or without sufficient advance information. Temerity has a rather attractive adjective as part of its family, this being temerarious, though, much like pulchritude, it is one of those words that doesn’t really seem cut out for the job it is being asked to do, seeing it means rash or reckless.
By this point, we must be just about due for this time’s True Tale and, bearing in mind what our Word to the Wise actually is, it’s a pretty surefire bet that we’re about to descend toward the very depths of nefarious tawdry, that dark and murky underworld that dwells mainly in a disturbed and overwrought subconscious lurking in the deepest recesses of our minds, so if you’re at all of a sensitive disposition, or happen to be susceptible to shock and outrage, or if you possess any artistic or aesthetic sensibility whatsoever, it’s probably best to look away now. Before it’s too late. Far, far too late …
To begin at the beginning, our Tale this time features Frank and Rory, an ageing gay Irish couple at the very centre of our libationary activities back when time was, and quite often the very heart and soul thereof. Both had clearly kissed the Blarney Stone at one time or another, though their individual loquaciousness’ took very different guises. Frank was master of the tall tale, stories so shaggy that they gave the inescapable impression of being the direct result of a scriptwriting collaboration between an actual but somewhat shifty cockerel and his equally untrustworthy bovine partner. And yet, so convincing were they that to doubt seemed nigh on perfidious, if not outright treachery. Like the time he insisted that his first job had been putting the pips into raspberry jam. You may well scoff and make sneering comments like How did you fall for that one? but it’s fact that, during World War II, they only had the cheaper apple or rhubarb jam, which they then coloured to pass off as the more popular raspberry, having first added a convincing final flourish of some wooden pips. Sometimes there was no fruit in it whatsoever. A bit like Sainsbury’s Basics range.
Camberwell Beauty or Nymphalis antiopa, hence the reference to butterflies in the architecture, though there is nothing whatsoever of the Beauty about the Aylesham, being your bogstandard arcade of shops such as Snappy Snaps, the 99p Store, Morrisons, Currys and, of course, Superdrug). Anyhow, there Rory happened to find himself, mooching around and not doing anything much in particular when, all at once, he is assailed by a rather slattern woman with a drink-reddened face and an unusual odour all of her own, who then starts to beseech him for some spare change.
‘Just a pound, love, that’s all,’ she appealed (though we use the term in its loosest sense herein), grasping his arm lest he should attempt to flee. ‘That’s all love, just a pound.’
Aghast and horrorstruck at his situation, Rory then proceeded to do what any of us might have done under such trying circumstances: he said he only had a five pound note, that he would go into Superdrug and when he came out he would give her some change then. Which seemed to appease her, enough to release him, at which he escaped into said store with a mighty sigh of relief. The plan was to spend as long as he could within – bear in mind that four minutes can seem like a lifetime when you’re confined inside Superdrug – and hope that in the meantime she would wander off in search of better pickings. Eventually, and having examined minutely every single item on display therein, he finally calculated that the coast must, by now, be clear, at which he stepped boldly without once more. Straight into the mantis-like grip of the selfsame crone. Hopeless situations call for desperate measures: there was nothing else for it but to cough up, and so he handed her two shiny pound coins. For a moment she was speechless with astonishment. And then:
‘Two pounds!’ she gasped, in utter disbelief, exactly as if she had never before set eyes on so fabulous a sum. ‘For two pounds you’ll want to take me round the back, won’t you? Is that what you’d like, my love?’
Nothing could possibly have been any further from his mind than that and you would really need to have seen the utter revulsion written on Rory’s face as he reached this part of his tale, your classic bulldog sucking an extremely bitter wasp and then some, to appreciate the abhorrence etched there. Which only made it all the more amusing to those of us foregathered at that memorable moment, so absurdly vaudeville was the whole scenario.
‘Me?’ he screeched in a pained effeminate falsetto. ‘Can you just imagine? Me? Go round the back? With her? Shocking bad, so it was!’
At last, our hilarity (which this has failed utterly to convey, but you’d need to be Rory to recreate it) began to slowly subside. Meanwhile, behind the counter stood the barman, an eternal bachelor, ostensibly polishing glasses, though keeping one ear cocked toward all that was being said. He waited patiently until the laughter had died into silence, then he looked Rory straight in the eye and, without flinching even a muscle, asked:
‘Which branch of Superdrug did you say it was?’
Fighting Temeraire: J. M. W. Turner [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Judith: Caravaggio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
David: Caravaggio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Camberwell Beauty: By Kymi (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons