The Strange Case for the L'Enfant Terrible

Notorious L’Enfant Terrible Christopher Hitchens photographed in 2005 by Ari Armstrong

Notorious L’Enfant Terrible Christopher Hitchens photographed in 2005 by Ari Armstrong

 I've always wanted to use the word "L'Enfant Terrible" in a sentence. (see, I just did). There is something so very obnoxious about using French or Latin terms that a certain class of person will throw out in conversation. Strangely enough, though this may have been a common occurrence in Victorian drawing rooms, modern usage usually means that the person using the term can also be defined by it. (uh oh). 

"L'Enfant Terrible" is Estonian for "terrifying baby-person" or something. There are a couple ways to think about "L'Enfant Terrible". The first is a precocious and scary adult-like child (think Stewie Griffin). The second a scary and prescient child-like adult (think Gregory House, MD). By in large, "L"Enfant Terrible" is the perceptive jerk with a willingness to ruin your day and seems to get an especially large amount of glee from the phrase "It's true, but you're not going to like it." I'm always been a bit ambivalent about "Les Enfants Terrible" since they are generally awful people, but sometimes you can learn a lot from someone who isn't concerned with pulling punches.