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The Vocabula Review

 

Joseph Epstein

Joseph Epstein

The other day, I was signing a few books after a talk I gave at a woman's club in Chicago, when someone remarked on the weather, a very nice woman cited Mark Twain as saying, "Heaven for climate, hell for conversation." I hesitated, then remarked, "Forgive me, but Mark Twain didn't actually say that. J. M. Barrie did." One-upmanship isn't really my style, and neither is correcting someone my notion of a good time.


Phil Eubanks

Phil Eubanks

There are two sure things about metaphors: They are always false. And they are always true. This is the paradox that drives "the metaphor game."

The game works like this: Suppose we're talking about, say, office politics. You're advising me on a sticky situation, and I'm projecting an air of self-confidence. I might say something like, "I have nothing to worry about because I'm taking the high road." If you think I am naive, you might respond with something like, "Well, be careful. Those mountain curves can be treacherous."

Touché. You've turned my metaphor against me. Game over. Probably.

The metaphor game is the stuff of clever banter. But it's also a part of serious debate — a way to make points that matter, and way to make points that matter vivid.


Rebecca Sheir

Rebecca Sheir

Everything was going remarkably well. The minestrone was hot, the Chianti was cold, and the conversation thus far had been effortlessly delicious. Slick-coiffed waiters balancing trays of arancini and osso buco zipped in and out of the kitchen, and a squash of Rosé-quaffing Upper West Siders bustled about the bar area. But from our cozy banquette in the corner, my companion and I barely even noticed. As I gazed into his unbelievably cerulean eyes and chortled at yet another of his impossibly coruscating rejoinders, I wondered why I had always been so resistant to blind dates; this wonderfully winsome friend-of-a-friend was turning out to be a real gem.


Robert Hartwell Fiske

Robert Hartwell Fiske

The Fiske Ranking of College Dictionaries (FRCD) is based on an evaluation of twenty-five words and phrases from the following six popular college dictionaries:

American Heritage College Dictionary (4th edition, 2002)
Webster's New World College Dictionary (4th edition, 2002)
Microsoft Encarta College Dictionary (1st edition, 2001)
Random House Webster's College Dictionary (2nd edition, 2001)
The Oxford American College Dictionary (1st edition, 2002)
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (11th edition, 2003)



The January issue of The Vocabula Review is due online January 18.


 

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