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Brain Twisters of a Different Kind


I thought I’d share a few thoughts with you today about those wee niggling puzzles that we all run around inside our heads when they’re brought to our attention.

Oh, don’t worry. I’m not going to go through the whole catalogue of examples. No. I will only choose a few, just to get people thinking about how we communicate with each other and the world and question how figures of speech get created.

Yes, you guessed it. I refer to those pesky oxymorons that tend to make us all look like morons when we use them. Oh, I know. Army Intelligence is one of the best examples around and one of the most widely used.

I want to talk about some of the frequently overlooked, but just as viable, examples instead.

First one up–Is it good if a vacuum really sucks? Now think about this. Is it? Of course, you say. That’s its function–sucking up the dirt. But, I say, that’s not the point. If it really sucks, it’s not doing its job, now is it? And yet, looked at from a different angle with a different tone of voice, it could mean that’s exceptionally efficient. So, which is meant here with the original question?

Second up–If a word is misspelled in the dictionary, how would we ever know? Now I admit, this one takes some consideration. It asks a legitimate question related to language. If the premier dictionary has always spelled a word a certain way with a specific definition, can we really be sure that it’s truly supposed to be spelled that way? What if the thesaurus spells it a different way. Isn’t it a case of tear and tier. The words mean entirely different things. Yet, how can we be certain that the word originally used for that meaning was spelled that way. Language evolves over time, after all. Just saying…

Next up–What is a whack and how can something be out of it? Anyone know? Please, clue me in. I’ve always wanted to know what a whack looked like.

Going on to–Doesn’t “expecting the unexpected” make the unexpected expected? Tongue twister time. Logic dictates that this is an impossibility, yet we use it, understand it’s meaning and directive. Then again, perhaps as we began to live by this motto, we also began our slide into nervous exhaustion, insomnia, paranoia, and assorted other disturbing conditions. If you’re always expecting something to happen without warning, aren’t you constantly in fight/flight response mode? Therefore, the very act of being prepared brings us to our knees with a variety of psychological problems.

And last for today–If all the world’s a stage, where is the audience sitting? This one is a real teaser in its own way. It’s very meaning says that each of us is both actor and audience member in the same instant. How can we possibly criticize those around us, or applaud them, if we are being judged for each moment of our own lives at the same time? Makes a person think, doesn’t it?

So consider some of those oxymorons that have cluttered your brain’s logic center for a while. Decide just what they ask, how they ask the question–if there is one–and how people respond to them. I’d be willing to bet that the average person doesn’t recognize them most of the time, much less think about them.

While you’re doing that, I’ll say a bientot,


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