WHITE CHRISTMAS: a weather condition or a metaphor?

I found myself listening to Bing Crosby’s recording of White Christmas this afternoon, realizing that because I was in the hospital for the past couple of weeks I haven’t heard much Christmas music.  I was surprised to discover that I actually missed the seasonal music; I thought I hated it after it would appear around […]

PICALILLI: a pickle of mixed vegetables, esp onions, cauliflower, and cucumber, in a mustard sauce

It’s not a word that compares in significance to others I have chosen for comment.  It won’t approach the national economy, the war in Afghanistan, or the machinations of the members of Congress.  I doubt that it occurs in the daily language of the President of the United States, the coach of the Boston Red […]

MEPHITIC: a really, really bad odor

It is odd to find such an ordinary meaning for such a lofty-sounding word, but that’s exactly the case with the word mephitic. Try to find a more literary meaning for it and you’ll fail.  It means that something stinks.  Oh, it can be used in a more formal way, like referring to a mephitic […]

CATACHRESIS: misuse or strained use of words, as in a mixed metaphor, occurring either in error or for rhetorical effect.

I am not a trained linguist. If anything, I’m just an amateur wordsmith. I enjoy words, and I get a kick out of editing pieces.  I pay attention to the way words are used, and get the kind of appreciation from good usage the same way an art buff gets appreciation from the clever use […]

FLIP SIDE OF THE PILLOW: a metaphor referring to a quick change from boring to interesting

I doubt if it’s a foreign idea to you that when your pillow gets uncomfortably hot in the middle of the night, you can flip it over and there’s a sudden rush of a more comfortable cool.  But who would have guessed that this phenomenon, which most people assume is something they alone have discovered, […]