Go Big or Go Homer
I was reading up on some over-the-hill jocks whose motto is, “Add years to your life by adding life to your years. Play basketball.”
Which reminded me of the old Mae West line, “It’s not the men in my life, it’s the life in my men.” Which reminded me of another clever twist, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste. And a waist is a terrible thing to mind.”
Sometimes such wisdom is lost on me. When the going gets tough, the tough get going; and I go home or under the covers.
I figured there must be a name for these literary or rhetorical twisters, and there is. But no one in the history of the English language has ever spoken this word. No one. No way, no how. Even drill sergeant grammar nuns with knuckle slapping yardsticks would not know this one.
The word is antimetabole. Tell me that doesn’t look like some micro-organism that might kill you. Or something you’d see in the Ask The Doc column.
I still don’t know how to say it and even if I could, I wouldn’t. It’s like the tree in the forest. Is a word really a word if you can’t say it?
Anyway, while doing deep, deep research for this column (I hope you’re still reading. I probably would have bailed as soon as I saw antimetabole), I came across another word, diacope, which if you say fast, sounds like a one-calorie soda. Give me a slice and a diacope.
This word, also never used by any English-speaking person, is from a Greek word meaning “cut in two.” Which allows me to plug a book by Mary Norris, “Greek to Me.” If I had any sense of timing, I would have plugged it during the holiday shopping season.
Mary is a mostly-summer resident of Rockaway and is the best-selling author of “Confessions of a Comma Queen” and worked for a longtime at the notoriously persnickety copy department at the New Yorker magazine. I hesitated to tout her new book lest someone show her this column. That’s all I need, another comma queen in my life. I like sentences like my drinks. Short and neat. I don’t need no stinkin’ commas.
But tout I must. If you like words, some Greek history, and enjoy a few laughs, you’ll fancy “Greek To Me” so get yourself a gift. You might feel dumb while reading it but you’ll feel smarter having read it.
Oh, and for the three English majors still reading, an example of a diacope is To Be or Not To Be. Basically, it’s a repeat of words that are separated (cut in two). Run, Toto, Run is another.
If all the Greek stuff seems esoteric (I did something clever there), you can stay local and buy books by Dan Guarino, Jill Eisenstadt, Howard Schwach, and Larry Racioppo. You can buy those while you wait for upcoming books by Tom O’Callaghan and Mark Healey. Just do the google and you’ll find the books.
I don’t know if any of ‘em have antimetaboles. Which reminds me. The thing is, (irony alert) you can’t say the word but you can’t get them out of your head. “I am stuck on band-aid, because band-aid’s stuck on me.”