What is the repartee in response to?
February 21, 2013 12:39 AM   Subscribe

If the repartee is a quick, witty response, what would you call the "opener" that it's responding to? I'm thinking along the lines of witty banter that invites a romantic/sexy response rather than verbal smackdowns or Dorothy Parkerisms, something like a "come-on" but implying wit and intrigue.
posted by war wrath of wraith to Writing & Language (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
posted by empath at 12:44 AM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

or a bon mot, maybe.
posted by empath at 12:46 AM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by brujita at 12:49 AM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think you mean riposte and not repartee, but an interesting question. I might call the opening line an invitation because that it usually looks like.
posted by three blind mice at 12:55 AM on February 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

My friends call it the 'straight line'.
posted by geek anachronism at 1:57 AM on February 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

There's the layup...

...and there's the dunk.
posted by ominous_paws at 2:08 AM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd say the "set-up", or "straight line" as geek anachronism says. I like "set up" though since it can be humorous too so not always so "straight".
posted by zoinks at 2:14 AM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

A gambit, among other things, is "a remark intended to open a conversation," and I also agree that a "sally" is a good word for this. For example: "He always knew the latest gossip and had for each conversational sally some clever riposte."

This is just my own impression, but to me a gambit seems more strategic and also implies some risk (that the correspondent may find the initiating comment uninteresting, or not understand the "move," or possibly even take offense)... while a "sally" seems more playful and provocative, as well as more confident that the correspondent will respond in kind (or at least that the initiator will feel no chagrin if they do not).
posted by taz at 3:07 AM on February 21, 2013 [6 favorites]

Be aware that we are talking about fencing here - the French term "repartie" was the response made to a challenge (a type of reposte). In matters of fencing (as in those of love, ballet and distress signals) it is the French who one should look to for expressions. So how about some fencing terms. Finding the exact expression for the preliminary move that one would meet with a reposte is tricky - because you need to consider what was in the mind of the set-up guy: was what they said an aggressive lunge, a deceptive trompement such as a seconde intention or just a preliminary presentation of ones sword to the opposition for the first time?

Perhaps somebody who actually knows about fencing could help here?
posted by rongorongo at 4:23 AM on February 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

In colloquial English, I would say that the entire conversation would be "repartee," including whatever phrase or statement began it. A quick response to an initial statement could be, amongst other things, a riposte. Keep in mind that there are no mathematically correct answers in English, merely shades of meaning.

Formal fencing terminology is unlikely to yield a great answer, because what precedes a riposte is an attack (or "attaque" if we want to be francophone about it).

"Sally," above, would be my pick from the suggestions so far. However, if this question is about writing dialogue, it's probably a good time to remember to show and not tell. If the dialogue is sufficiently fast and witty, it simply is repartee and the descriptor could be redundant. But again, no correct answers.
posted by kavasa at 6:49 AM on February 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

I was a fencer for four years.

If indeed you mean repartie you are talking about a particular counter-attack made to a riposte, which in fact a counter-attack in it of itself. So you have three layers: the initial attack, the riposte, and the repartie. That doesn't quite sound like what you're describing above; it sounds much more like you're looking for a word that describes the initial attack itself.

I don't know about linguistics, but in fencing, there are a wide range of initial attacks available to an aggressor. A lunge is a simple, straightforward attack that is almost certain to solicit a riposte ("Would you like to have dinner tonight?" "I like to have dinner every night. But with you? Nah.") There's the beat-and-lunge, where you knock the opponent's blade out of the way before you go in for the attack. ("I already you're way out of my league, but would you like to have dinner tonight?") This is hard to counterattack because your blade has been moved out of line. There's a fl├Ęche, which is a tremendously ballsy move that involves sprinting at your opponent while attempting to hit them and then, embarrassingly, running past them in an attempt to avoid the riposte ("Would you like to have sex with me, and if not you, how about your equally hot sister?") Be careful with that one, or you'll earn yourself, in fencing terms, a black card, and be removed from the piste. There's a ballestra, a jump or stamp accompanied by a lunge, designed to intimidate or distract. ("THE BUILDING'S ON FIRE alsowouldyougooutwithme?") And my personal favorite, the disengage, which involves lunging and avoiding an opponent's parry with a small, careful flick of the wrist ("Would you like to have dinner, or, if that sounds too boring, would you like to go skydiving drunk instead?") If you're lucky, any of these moves might bring you corps-a-corps (literally, body-to-body), which happens when your, ahem, hilts are against one another and your faces are close enough to kiss (or would be, if you weren't wearing fencing masks.)

Seriously though, if you'd like to keep up with the fencing terms, you can keep it simple and say that the leading remark is an assault (a fencing match between friends) that brought you both en garde.
posted by WidgetAlley at 2:10 PM on February 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

I forgot, of course, about the best move of all: a stop-thrust. This happens when Fencer A sees Fencer B attacking and simply drops to the ground like a rock, swordpoint forward. Fencer B's point goes sailing over Fencer A's head as Fencer B runs directly into their opponent's sword.

("Would you like to go out to--" "YES.")
posted by WidgetAlley at 2:14 PM on February 21, 2013


Just for the sake of pedantry, I'll note that widget's fencing definitions don't necessarily square perfectly with mine. FWIW my fencing experience was all low-level USFA competition and some collegiate club competition.

I would honestly never use "repartee" to ever describe a fencing action, but maybe it's a standard term in FIE competition. A riposte of a riposte would simply be a "counter riposte" in my experience.

A lunge isn't in and of itself an attack, it's a specific motion of the feet: you push hard with your back foot and land on your front foot.

I have never seen or heard anyone say "beat and lunge," only ever a "beat attack," or the occasional francophone director who would use "prise de fer."

A properly executed fleche finds you airborne, not running. To be fair, the athleticism required for this is uncommon. The movement past the opponent is not to avoid the riposte but because inertia exists. You fleche to land an attack on your opponent from well outside the usual range of an attack.

The point of a ballestra is not to intimidate or distract, nor is it a stamp. The point is to cover a lot of distance, fast, and end in an en guarde position, rather than extended at the end of a lunge. Push off with the back foot to jump forward and snap the back foot back under you while you're in the air. Whether you lunge afterwards or not isn't relevant to whether or not a ballestra occurred. This is basically a modern sabre-only move, because sabre is the only weapon where the fleche has been banned (it was banned because olympic-level sabre matches had devolved into two people leaping at each other from the en guarde lines).

Sorry, we're getting kind of far afield of the original question, I just feel like some of these would sound very strange to some/most people if used in the manner the OP seems to be asking for.
posted by kavasa at 7:27 PM on February 21, 2013

Salvo is what came to mind for me. Probably related to "sally" above.
posted by ShutterBun at 10:27 PM on February 21, 2013

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