Thursday, July 3, 2008


You see that magic word, Inasmuch?
—Isabel Reaney, Just in Time (1884)
“That word, inasmuch, that’s a holy terror of a word. What does it mean? I think it means this is your last chance.” So suggests Frank McCourt in Angela’s Ashes (1996). While inasmuch doesn’t always instill fear and trembling, it is uniformly forceful and betrays an aura of foreboding. Why does it imply a “last chance”? The word establishes a parameter and takes the venturesome right to the edge, the verge, the threshold. It’s at a threshold—a gateway between worlds—that magic can happen. Inasmuch was, of course, originally three words, in as much, and as a compound magic word it’s like a dial with three settings, tuning in to a precise degree of consequence.

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