Tales from a Misinformed Dictionary – Scripsit

Scripsit: In the golden days, perhaps as far back as Shakespearean times (if indeed Shakespeare existed – some literary scholars believe that his plays were actually written by someone named Marlowe’s ghost – an early example of ghostwriting) a playwright would finish his script and then sit on it for awhile, waiting until it was truly ready for producing at the Globe or one of the many other English theaters such as the Hoot or the Catcall. Of course some of the more superstitious playwrights took this literally and actually sat on the script. Eventually finding the process eminently impractical and ridiculously tedious, the playwrights hefted themselves up and ambled down to the Fowle Guild, thinking that if chickens and Cornish game hens and other fowl had the leisure time to sit on eggs, why not scripts? So the guild masters formed an auxiliary and christened it the Scripsit Guild. They allowed only the most patient birds to act as scripsits, since, unlike silky smooth eggs, the parchment felt rough and the ink stained their feathers – plus nothing ever hatched, not even an idea. Playwrights utilized scripsits well into the 19th century until the industrial revolution, when an enterprising inventor created a mechanized scripsit, which eventually evolved into a theatrical agent.

Makepeace Voltaire was the most famous playwright from Devonshire, Piznitz-on-the-wold, Merry-in-the-pigsty, England, although local publicans liked to remind visitors that Makepeace was the only playwright ever to have come from Devonshire, Piznitz-on-the-wold, Merry-in-the-pigsty, England. Renowned for his tragicomic dramaturgy, praised for his facility with what critics even in those days referred to as the English language, Makepeace felt justified in calling himself Makepeace. Sadly, however, come 1642 he fell on hard times. To critics and the public alike, his plays seemed half-baked, regurgitated and spit out. Something was seriously wrong with his dialogue (‘Alas!’ seemed to be repeated every other line). Something was seriously amiss with his stage directions (men with spears kept tripping over each other and bumping into walls). His closest friend, the Dutch poet, Hans Moo (umlaut over the first o) urged him to either give up or give in – “Ach dermitzich nurdengammer fichiflachtifechtidammerung,” he said, which loosely translated (Makepeace believed) meant, “Go to the guild and get yourself a scripsit, goshdarn.”

So, Makepeace visited the Scripsit Guild and returned with a rather taciturn peahen named “Elizabeth” who, after carefully arranging her feathers, sat on Makepeace’s latest creation, a play about a farmer who has a problem with too many leeks, entitled, The Farmer Who Had Way Too Many Leeks. Hours passed, days passed, and Elizabeth sat stolidly and stoically, never allowing Makepeace even the tiniest peep at the script to see if it was ready. She just stared balefully at his nose and occasionally took a nip at it. Finally, two weeks later, she stood up, ruffled her rump, and stepped away from the script. Makepeace was astounded to discover the play renamed Elizabeth of Devon, now a romance about a lonely woman with a rather bird-like face, pining for her lost love, a young ne’er-do-well. Finally, a rich baron whose serfs were world-renowned for their ability to grow the finest leeks, sweeps her off her feet and they live happily – or perhaps not – in a castle full of leaks. Needless to say, the play was a roaring success and the envy of every playwright, even that Shakespeare, or whatever his name was.

Actual meaning: he (or she) wrote (it): placed after the author’s name on a manuscript, etc.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Christina Wilsdon
    Feb 07, 2012 @ 09:29:10

    I could use several of those scripsits, actually. Alas! I have none.


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