Grammar books are full of obscure words that writers love. Words like metonymy, onomatopoeia, homonym, hyperbole, litotes and oxymoron to name a few.
For some strange reason, I love the term, oxymoron. It means a figure of speech in which an two adjectives, or more likely, an adjective and a noun are seemingly contradictory. Some refer to this as a “contradiction in terms.” Examples include “poor little rich girl,” “cruel kindness,” “jumbo shrimp,” or “deafening silence.”
My newspaper last week gave me a new one—“working cat.”
Not mine. They loll, they sleep, they demand, they whine, but under no circumstances do they work!
The story was a heart-warmer about cats who refused to be socialized and were bound for euthanasia. An enterprising soul developed a program to place these creatures in non-social environments like warehouses or barns or stables. Cats who hiss, scratch, swat or refuse to use the litter box are unwanted as house pets but are a real boon in working locations. A distributer who lost several bags of chips per night to mice, adopted one of these anti-social cats, and the mouse problem disappeared. Another adopter had a problem with rats in a dumpster. Enter a “working cat” – problem solved. Apparently the non-pet version of a cat is well suited to being a hunter. Of course, cats were originally domesticated for that very reason, to exterminate vermin. Humans, of course, couldn’t leave a good thing alone, and turned those sleek, efficient exterminators, into family pets. The kind that expect their owners to serve them, not the other way around.
And on the subject of grammar words, here’s another story. Levi Budd, a six year old in my area, wants add a new word to the lectionary—levidrome. The term would describe a word, which when spelled backward makes a new word, e.g. tips-split, stressed-dessert, part-trap. Apparently, no term presently exists for this grammatical twist. We have palindrome for words that read the same backward or forward, e.g. “bob,” or “madam I’m Adam,” but no term for the dog-god occurrence.
Levi wanted to put his word in the dictionary but was told it could only be added if enough people used it. So, Levi and his family have made a youtube to get the word into common usage. If you want to help, click on the link.
Ain’t grammar fun?