Figuratively Speaking

Now where were we … ah yes, language winners and losers.

LOSERS: Challenge. My field is marketing and feature writing, so guilty as charged! I sometimes use this word when I mean problem, failure, disaster, or shortcoming. We writers wish we could tell the truth but we must face the challenge every day of keeping the shine on the apple.

Talking. For some reason, everyone thinks it’s hip and cool to “talk” things. We don’t talk about them anymore. It comes from the expression “talk turkey,” which means to talk about something straightforwardly or frankly.

The expression has been appropriated and overused. I continually read headlines screaming, “Police talk crime at forum,” “Businesses talk economic recovery at luncheon.” It makes me want to talk sense into them!

Enough losers …let’s look at some winners.

WINNERS: I’d like to start with a line from the 1990s TV series Northern Exposure. I know, here I’m talking about TV again, but this line humbled me as a writer: “It was as if someone took all the starch out of him.” What an image! I wish I had written it.

Bellwether. An indicator, from the bell worn by the lead male sheep, the wether. The bickering between presidential candidates is a bellwether of a tough election season ahead.

Bailiwick. A favorite, though you have to be careful when you use this one or people may think you’re being inappropriate … it means area of jurisdiction … or area of interest. I’m fairly good at writing, but math is outside my bailiwick.

ON A DIFFERENT NOTE: I read that a full revision of the Oxford English Dictionary is under way, to be completed by 2037. It’s not clear whether this version will ever appear in printed form. Heartbreak!!

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