Word of the Day: Ucalegon

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(n.) a neighbor whose house is on fire; from the Ancient Greek character Ucalegon, an Elder of Troy whose house was set on fire by the Achaeans when they invaded the city.

Accomack is a small county that looked half-gutted even before the fire started, where love and fire could combine to transform two ordinary people’s lives into an epic romance.

Monica Hesse, Love and Fire

Sometimes we come across unusual words that describe something so fundamental that you have to wonder why we don’t use it every day. “Ucalegon” isn’t one of those words, but it does lead us to some fascinating reads this week. Check out Hesse’s well-woven tale of a burning passion taken a little too literally. In a style reminiscent of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, her Washington Post long-form article recounts the story of the Accomack arsonists. For a quick fix, rediscover Jonathan Franzen’s 2010 bite-sized story about setting his neighbor’s lawn on fire.


Sara Menuck is currently pursuing BA in English & Professional Writing at York University, Toronto, without being very professional at all. Having interned with a variety of small press publications, she currently works as a prose reader for The Winter Tangerine Review, a department editorial assistant, and, in her free time, a teacher of music to very small, adorable children. More from this author →