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May 20, 2018

I’m currently marking a bunch of projects from creative writing students whom I mentor at the University of Westminster; and one contained a word I had never heard before: eccedentesiast. It means someone who is always smiling insincerely, and comes from a Latin phrase meaning ‘behold the teeth’. Not an easy word to slip into a story, but it is said by a character who would use exactly that sort of word. Eccedentiast. Brilliant. That student would get a top grade from me on the strength of that word alone. Fortunately the rest of the project is good too.

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  1. Simon Carter permalink

    Apparently this was coined by an American novelist named Florence King. It is also colloquially known as a Pan Am smile. Without being too misanthropic…How awful it must be to have a job wherein one must smile at people constantly.

  2. Didn’t know that! Thanks for the background. Yes, I agree it must be hard to have a job where smiling is compulsory. Still, we all have to smile when we don’t mean it from time to time. Psychopaths are very good at it, apparently.

  3. Simon Carter permalink

    Might explain why politicians have a flair for it too.

    • Tim Crannigan permalink

      Exactly. My immediate thought was it was coined for Tony Blair…

  4. Simon Carter permalink

    A “real” smile is called a Duchenne smile so perhaps Blairistic is its antonym. Like an anxious crocodile hosting a game show.

  5. Mark Brafield permalink

    As luck would have it, just today I am reading Zadie Smith’s ‘On Beauty’ in which one of the characters has a ‘clip-on smile’. Clearly an eccedentesiast. And I used to know a choir director who was known as the ‘smiling assassin’, on the basis that when he looked grumpy, you had nothing to fear, but when he started to smile, you knew you were in for a terrible time.

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