Poetry pressed out by pain

Poetry is one of the strongest channels for expressing pain, and I liked the use of the word 'pressed'.  It implies a wine-making process, as if you emptied vat loads of painful must and then pressed out a small quantity of distilled language to be savoured over time....

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Of damp and prolixity

Orlando reveals his bias towards the 18th (or against the 19th) century by noting the turn of the century as having been marked by a change in climate.  Damp invades everything, releasing a kind of fetid fecundity in all things, with ivy taking over buildings,...

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From tapers to tinder

I loved this description of a young boy going to all lengths to be able to read as much as he wants.  I remember being conscious of a few specific books as a small child, and 'reading' them long before I knew how to read.  Some were children's books but I also recall...

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An English view of Russian

Although ignorant of Russian, I am interested in how cultures see other cultures, and languages see other languages, even if those perceptions are inaccurate.  Was this just a finely poetic notion in Woolf's head, or was it based on something she knew or had heard? ...

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A quote to note

Drawing on thousands of sparkling, moving and inspiring quotations amassed during decades of attentive reading. These will be added in the days and months ahead, to delight the mind and spirit, take care of your gift-giving needs, and improve the world’s Powerpoint presentations beyond belief. And coming soon, in searchable form.

Of the unspoken

A short and thoughtful statement.  He doesn't elaborate and it is hard to know what drew him to this conclusion.  Given how much religion is spoken, it's an interesting comment. 'What is religion?  That which is never spoken.'  18 August 1858   Source:...

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Wrong by a jugful

A charming way to say that someone is seriously wrong - not right by a jugful.  I will try to slip this into my daily speech and see if anyone notices. '... he says that his account is not right by a jugful, that he does not come within half a mile of the...

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Studying the ways of men

So that's the secret of the fox's cunning - they hide out of sight and study us!  Thoreau has dozens of these tiny observations about animals. 'Farmer said yesterday that he thought foxes did not live so much in the depth of the woods as on open hillsides,...

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The past as a concertina of time

I collect comments on and perceptions of time.  This one is striking and I am as guilty of it as anybody.  While we allow significant differences between recent centuries (the 18th century being Very Different from the 20th) we readily assume that the...

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Metaphorically speaking

More marvelous metaphors on Mondays … Monday, metaphor day.

Like frost and flowers

An alternative alliteration for describing people as being like chalk and cheese.  Feel free to use it to inject some variety into your phrasing. 'Him and th’ old Squire fit one another like frost and flowers.' Source: George Eliot, Adam Bede (Harmondsworth: Penguin,...

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Like a stealing sunbeam

This is as near as upright Mrs. Poyser gets to admitting she's pleased as punch by a compliment just received.  I liked the alliterative 'stealing sunbeam'. '… but a quiet complacency overspread her face like a stealing sunbeam…' Source: George Eliot, Adam Bede...

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Give me Irwine every time

A fine pair of metaphors for the differing effects of two men's company - no doubt with whom I'd rather spend an evening, chatting in front of the fire. 'Mr Irwine was like a good meal o’ victual, you were better for him without thinking on it, and Mr Ryde was like a...

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Ribbon when the colour’s gone

Mrs Poyner offering up her pithy view of many wives in the neighbourhood, during a good-natured discussion with her husband.  He settles their difference of opinion by assuring her he married well. 'The poor draggle-tails o’ wives you see, like bits o’ gauze ribbin,...

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Bringing you pithy, evocative imagery in the form of three-legged microcosms of meaning. Updated on Tuesdays … Tuesday, triologism day!  You’ll never see this day of the week in the same way again.

Coal-scuttle bonnet

A perfect description of the late 18th century bonnet, likening it to a now defunct item.  Yet as a girl spending school holidays at our cousins' farm in Derbyshire, I remember my great aunt Lena going out to the coal-shed and scooping up scuttle loads of black rocks...

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Well-seasoned meerschaum

This is part of a description of the village schoolroom where the sometimes compassionate, sometimes ascerbic schoolmaster Bartle Massey tries to knock some learning, or at least letters of the alphabet, into the dunderheads of artisans and labourers who dutifully...

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Liver-coloured foal

One of the most unusual descriptions of a colour I have come across, and I also liked the gawkiness of the foal. '... and beside her the liver-coloured foal with its head towards its mother's flank, apparently still much embarrassed by its own straddling existence.'...

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Evil-smelling element

This refers to 'brimstone', nick-name of the former brickmaker and some time poacher who 'got' religion with the arrival of Methodism.  He gave up thieving in lieu of which he studied the alphabet the better to soak up spiritual correction.  But he found reading...

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Apple-cheeked children

It's an obvious one, but still a charming picture of innocence and health, apple-cheeked. 'I'm sure I never saw a prettier party than this,' Arthur said, looking round at the apple-cheeked children.' Source: George Eliot, Adam Bede (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1985...

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Slow-striking clock

Mr Poyser is a kind farmer, and as he takes very seriously his duty to speak on behalf of the village at the coming of age of the young Squire, he is a little shy and ponderous, and has been fidgeting and fretting before the arrival of the Squire and his moment in the...

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Sharing words that sparkle, appeal, intrigue or otherwise grab me, including those in other languages.  And adoring alliteration, new words will be added on Wednesdays… Wednesday, word day.   See you back here then.

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Luckily I have rarely been subjected to objurgation.  Doesn't it sound stern?  It means to rebuke or scold severely.  To be used sparingly, though you could ask someone giving you a hard time to 'kindly rein in your objurgatory tone'.


A rapid gallop or ride; a hunting cry; moving or riding swiftly.  May all your dreams tantivy-o!


'Chryselephantine' means made of, or adorned with, gold and ivory, as in this figurine.  Only just came across this word though I wonder how I missed it these five decades.  Must be moving in the wrong circles. Chryso- is obviously gold-related and the elephantine...

A covert of coots

A covert is a shelter or a hiding place, from which you might study coots.  It can also refer to a thicket in which game can hide.  Does this aquatic bird hide itself in thickets (or reeds), to be given this collective noun? See also my review of Arthur Ransome's Coot...

A rake of colts

A curious collective noun for young horses. Does their occasional prancing exuberance make them look rakish?

A bask of crocodiles

Delightful collective noun this, suggesting a harmless creature soaking up the sun on a warm mud bank.  Just don't tread on one when it's basking.  Or ever.  And remember:   Row, row, row the boat, gently down the stream, Merrily, merrily, merrily-oh, life is but a...

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