Litotes

Litotes (li-to’-tees): Deliberate understatement, especially when expressing a thought by denying its opposite. The Ad Herennium author suggests litotes as a means of expressing modesty (downplaying one’s accomplishments) in order to gain the audience’s favor (establishing ethos).


I shouldn’t be here today. The banquet you’ve set, the adulation you’ve expressed have moved me nearly beyond words. When Ed called me “a regular Superman,” I wanted to hide under my table. Instead, Jim and Carl carried me up here to the podium in that sedan chair over there. I am so embarrassed—I’m not royalty. I’m just an ordinary guy—a very ordinary guy. Look at me for God’s sake: average height, average looks, average body, average shoe size, average hands. I am average all over, from top to bottom, from side to side. And Joe, you were way off base when you called a saint. Saints perform miracles. Do you really think that what I did was a miracle? I don’t think so, and neither should you. And Ann, you said that without people like me, the world would end. I don’t think so. Without people like me, the world would go on as it always has as a site of hope and fear, and all the other binary pairs that motivate people to act.

I awoke today to be confirmed by my peers as a hero at this beautiful celebration. One month ago I wasn’t a hero—confirmed or not. I did what I did because the world cried out to me—in fact—it screamed to me. It said: “Do something for me!” I listened. But, I did not know what to do. So, I asked my girlfriend, Eden. She told me I should do something nice. I asked what that meant. She told me that nice things benefit other people, but I needed to beware: just because I might think something’s nice, it may not seem nice to somebody else. This struck fear into my heart, giving me mild chest pains, and freezing me into inaction: I was afraid I would make a fool of myself. So, I sat on my saggy couch. Eden sat next to me. We sat in silence until the sun started to set and evening’s shadows started to inch their way across the living room carpet. My chest pains had subsided, and so had the fear (to some extent).

I stood up and pulled down my pants and yelled “Do it yourself!” at the world. I hobbled out to my front porch and yelled “Do it yourself!” My neighbor across the street came out onto his front porch, pulled down his pants and yelled “Do it yourself!” It was Fourth of July Weekend, so everybody was home. Soon, the yelling grew into a roar. “Do it yourself!” became a slogan for a social movement that has swept the world in one short month. With social media’s help, it took off like a big beautiful bird. Now, here we are celebrating the demise a charity—of giving generously with no hope of recompense, or reward. All I did was fan the flames of the fire of selfishness that’ve been burning since the beginning of time. Where do we go from here? I really don’t care. Let’s eat, drink, and be merry and work out the ironies and contradictions later! Here’s to the haves, to hell with the have nots. Here’s to “Do it yourself!”

The banquet ended. The guests left the hall. I was beginning to think that my front porch outburst had really made a mess of things. We were headed for a world without love or compassion. I told Eden to drag me home in my sedan chair. She yelled, “Do it yourself!” I pulled out my Taser and walked slowly toward her.


Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Martyria

Martyria (mar-tir’-i-a): Confirming something by referring to one’s own experience.


What the hell is experience? Is it something you go through with your body? Your mind? Both? And what is it good for? Does it make you an authority? Is it really the “best teacher”?

We all have at least 1,000,000 experiences per day. Seeing, walking, breathing, talking, listening, sitting, getting dressed, having a beer, driving to the mall. This list could easily extend to five or six feet in 10pt. font. But there are experiences, and then there are EXPERIENCES. Upper-case experiences are memorable, often as first-times. I remember the one and only time I got run over by a car.

I was in the 7th grade. I was carrying a paper flag I had made as a part of a class project showing the history of the American Flag. I took a shortcut home because I was in a hurry to get home to show my mother my flag. I skipped the intersection with the crossing guard and crossed where there were no crosswalks. I was j-walking. I had been told it was dangerous, but I didn’t care. I was in a hurry. I stepped into street without looking and was clipped by a big blue Oldsmobile that looked a lot like my neighbor’s car. It didn’t blow its horn. It didn’t slow down. It tore my paper flag out of my hand and I lost my balance and fell down on the pavement crying. Then, I got up, and this time, I looked both ways before I crossed the street.

I got home, and I was right, the blue Oldsmobile was parked in my neighbor’s driveway! My neighbor, and my best friend Billy, came running across the yard. He asked if I was ok, then he told me he had taken the family car joyriding while his father and mother were sleeping off one of their many binges. Eddie Baskle, an older kid, had talked him into it, like he always did: getting younger gullible kids in trouble: he was a menace. He had stayed back so many times, he was eligible to vote in the 7th grade.

After I punched Billy in the stomach for what he had done to me, we decided to “take care” of Eddie, but we couldn’t decide what to do. First, we considered pushing him out in traffic so he would be run over. But we decided we did not want to kill hm. Then, we considered a couple of non-fatal accident scenarios. We would tell him about the glory hole that was located in the Speedy Mart men’s room. It would be fake—me and Billy would make it. My dad had recently purchased a set of hedge clippers so, when he was sober, he could cut back our out-of-control hedge. Our plan was to lop off Eddie’s wiener with the hedge clippers. Then, we realized it was too crazy and too violent, even for us. It was like a scene out of a horror movie. Finally, we settled on x-lax, a chocolate candy-like laxative. We’d wrap it in foil and tell Eddie it was candy. We would make sure he ate it at the start of school in the morning, so the laxative would take effect around noon. And it did!

We did as planned. Eddie jumped up from the lunchroom table he was sitting at and ran to the boys room with a steaming brown stain on the back of his pants and down his pants leg. He made a squishy noise as he ran, crying and swearing at the same time. The school nurse gave Eddie a gown to wear until his mom could drop off some clean pants, socks and underwear. Eddie had an important math test that he couldn’t miss and had to wear the gown to the test. He was mercilessly taunted by his classmates and earned the nickname “King Poop.”

Eddie knew it was me and Billy who put him in poopy hell, but he never retaliated. His x-lax experience had taught him a lesson. Now, he volunteers at a nearby soup kitchen where, unfortunately, they have recurring outbreaks of intestinal flu. So far, Eddie has managed to evade the runs. There are suspicions.


Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Maxim

Maxim (max’-im): One of several terms describing short, pithy sayings. Others include adage, apothegm, gnome, paroemia, proverb, and sententia.


“Blow your tuba parallel to the ground.” Whenever I was off on my way to do something—play baseball, go to the grocery store, go on a date—anything that took place in public, my father would utter these words of wisdom. When I asked him what he meant, he’d say, “Come on, don’t mess with me. I’m your father shit for brains.” What he did tell me was that “Blow your tuba parallel to the ground” was a saying whose meaning was passed down through the years in the family from the oldest male who was a father, to his oldest male son who was a father, from generation to generation. There would be a secret ceremony in the garage, in the parked car’s front seat, where the saying’s secret meaning was revealed. I was the oldest son, but I didn’t have a son yet.

The years passed. I went to college, and then on to State University for a PhD. in Anthropology. Given my family background, I specialized in “sayings.” I studied the ancient Camdenite culture of Southern New Jersey. They had left inscriptions carved in trees throughout the region. It had taken linguists years to decipher their language. Able now to translate the trees’ inscriptions, I set about compiling their sayings, looking for themes that would shed light on the hierarchy of the good giving meaning to their lives.

The first thing I discovered was their equivalent of the English f-word was most prevalent. It was used in a contracted form to modify nearly each word in a sentence, as in “F-in eat the f-in clam.” This saying, along with a few others like it, appeared over and over again in the context of advice concerning male romantic endeavors. Most of the tree sayings were simple and basic, aside from the romantic sayings (as above) that were oblique, cryptic, and metaphoric and referenced activities of a sexual nature (as above). The more straightforward and utilitarian sayings were clear and down to earth: “Put your f-in spear away on an f-in rainy day.” “Don’t f-in piss on the f-in fire.” “F-in go outside to f-in fart.” I think these sayings can be taken literally, but they may also have deep figurative references that speak to the soul of Camdenite culture—a culture beyond my understanding as a 21st century bearer of a multi-faceted wi-fi and Zoom-enmeshed in all the f-in mind-game crap you have to put with to get a goddamn f-in PhD. So, I finished my dissertation as fast as I could, and graduated. My dissertation was titled “Differently Cultured Differences in Ancient South Jersey Sayings: F-in ‘A’ Mother F-er.” My dissertation won the “New Jersey Cultural Award for Making New Jersey Look Interesting.” There was a $200 prize and I didn’t start my professor job for a month, so I decided to go home and see if I could wrest out of my father the meaning of “Blow your tuba parallel to the ground.” In a way, it would top off my studies.

I arrived on a Friday afternoon. I rang the doorbell. My father answered the door.

So, standing right there on the porch, I asked him about the saying’s meaning for what seemed like the hundredth time, followed by: “All I can say dad is I don’t know the meaning of the advisory saying you’ve been plying me with all these years. How can I take its advice if I don’t know what is?” He put his hands together in a monk-like prayerful pose and said “That’s the f-in point, son.” Now I was even more confused. I was angry. I turned and stomped off the porch and headed for the bus station. As I turned the corner, I heard him yell, “Blow your tuba parallel to the ground.”


Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Medela

Medela (me-de’-la): When you can’t deny or defend friends’ faults and seek to heal them with good words.


We are friends. So, I can tell you everything that’s wrong with you, and possibly, lay out a remedy for each of your faults. I read somewhere that this sort of exercise is what friends are for. If you don’t want to hear it from a friend, who else will you listen to? Dr. Needleton? Ha ha. He thinks advice is asking questions, like “How did you sleep last night?” You answer “Good.” He says “Uh huh” and then asks you another question, like “Do you hate your mother?” You answer “Yes.” He says “Uh huh” and he asks you another question. This goes for 30 minutes. Then he says, “Good, good. You’re making progress.” Progress on what? Your dirty habits? No. Your irresponsibility? No. Your fear of the dark? No. I could go on forever with your defects and phobias, but let’s try to focus.

Number 1. Your are selfish piece of shit. The remedy is simple. Make a will that leaves everything to me. Here’s the paperwork. Just sign where it says signature. Very good. Now you’re not a selfish piece of shit any more.

Number 2. You are a coward. The remedy is simple. Light your neighbor’s house on fire and run inside to save their cat Rompus. But, you might say, “I’m a coward, I can’t do that.” No problem. We can get you a fire retardant suit. Voila! Now you’re brave.

Number 3. You are a slob. The remedy is simple. Hire a housekeeper and a live-in masseuse: the housekeeper will straighten things up and the masseuse will clean and rub you every day, Abracadabra! You are not a slob any more.

Number 4. You are afraid of spiders. The remedy is simple. This is a Brown Recluse. Eat it before it gets away. Ok, I’ll “feed” it to you. I have the spider in the jar in this hand, and I have a Smith & Wesson aimed at you with this hand. Eat the spider. I call this “tough love.” Eat the spider now! You’ll never be afraid of spiders again. Come on! First, let’s make sure you signed the will. After all, I am your best friend and wouldn’t want to miss out on inheriting your wealth! Ok, everything’s in good order. Don’t forget to chew before you swallow. Bon voyage asshole.

All this may seem rather harsh to a person who has never had a really good friend with a pile of problems. If they are unable to see the benefits of suicide, the next best thing is to murder them. Sure, you can pose remedies. In the example above, I only cited a handful of problems. If I had cited them all, I would still be writing. “Asshole” is a catch-all that holds all of a given person’s problems together—no matter how many, or how few, “asshole” contains it.

If you don’t want kill your problem-encumbered friend, or try to talk them into suicide, you can unfriend them, just like on Facebook. Make sure you call them an “asshole” when you unfriend them, so they will understand the rationale of your unfriending. No matter how much they whine and beg, just keep repeating “because you’re an asshole” over and over again. This could go on for weeks. The best thing to do is record “because you’re an asshole” on your phone’s voicemail greeting. Make sure to tell your other non-asshole friends and colleagues what you’re up to. If they’ve read my book, “Good-Bye Asshole,” they’ll know what you’re up to and will applaud you for your courage. If you see your former friend, make sure to use the word “asshole” in your greeting, like, “Hey asshole. What’s up?” If your car gets keyed, or other acts of vandalism are directed toward your property, simply report your former friend to the police. If you’ve had to “asshole” more than one person, make sure to report them all.

You’re right. I am harsh. I have zero empathy. My major problem in life is that assholes are attracted to me in droves. Is that because I’m an asshole?


Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Meiosis

Meiosis (mei-o’-sis): Reference to something with a name disproportionately lesser than its nature (a kind of litotes). This term is equivalent to tapinosis.


Cod Almighty created the heavens and the earth in seven days and seven nights. Cod Almighty took a rest on day seven and looked in the mirror. “I am not a halibut,” He proclaimed. Nevertheless, he was netted and found himself on the deck of a trawler. He tried to flop over the side before they shoveled him into the refrigerated hold along with his brethren. He failed. He became part of the pile of squirming fish, shiny silver in the gloom of the refrigerated hold. Slapped in the eye by a cold fish tail, and sliding deeper into the panicked pile, he thought, “I am Cod, I created all of this. It is not supposed to be like this. It is supposed to be a good world, filled with peace, love, and happiness, not a wild world filled with war, hatred, and clinically depressed humans: the clam mourns the depredation of its richly scented mud flats, the elderly man lives in a cardboard box, the lobster—consider the lobster—cramped in a supermarket tank, waiting to be boiled, cracked open, and eaten.”

Cod decided to make it right. He would remake the world, and recreate it right—universally brimming over with love, peace, and happiness. He closed his eyes and imagined the world he hoped for. Nothing happened, except he sank deeper into the fish pile. Then, he thought there may be other Cods and Coddesses in the pile who envisioned what he envisioned. He cried out. There was no answer. The pile was closing in, almost crushing him with its increasing weight. Then, He remembered he was omnipotent. Because of this insight, He thought, “I can reestablish myself as Cod,” and shimmied His way to the top of the pile, shot out of the hold, flopped across the deck and dove deep into the sea, where He was netted by another trawler and dumped into its hold. “Cod-damnit!” He cried, bubbling at the mouth. One of the hold’s shovelers looked at Him and asked “Did you just swear?” “Yes!” He cried, “Things are not the way they’re supposed to be.” The shoveler threw Cod in a corner and covered Him with a tarp. He told Him he got to keep one “catch” from each fishing trip & he was keeping Cod. When they got back to the Harbor, he took Cod in the tarp to the Fisher of Men Study Center. Cod rode in the back of the shoveler’s pickup truck flopping with joy. The Lab scientists put Cod in a beautiful tank. It was small, but comfortable. Cod told them He was grateful, but that “I am Cod Almighty and something got totally screwed up after I made the heavens and the earth.” The scientists looked sympathetic, and one of them offered to help Cod “sort things out.”

Now, Cod tells us: “I work when I can for the Study Center, dictating my memoirs to the scientist sitting on the rock at the end of my tank, where it is very foggy most of the time. Every once-in-awhile I hear somebody say, ‘Focus mister Bender, it’s time for your medication’ and a human hand pokes through the fog and feeds me a little blue pellet. I think there is a shark in the tank next to mine. I can’t see him, but he makes me nervous.”


Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Mempsis

Mempsis (memp’-sis): Expressing complaint and seeking help.

After I fell down the living room stairs for the third time, I started thinking about an alternative to stairs to get me up to bed at night. I was getting old and my doctor kept prescribing me medicine for all the ills that kept popping up. The latest was medical marijuana. It was mixed into Gummy Bear candies and it was prescribed for “gravitosis,” a condition afflicting the elderly with a sense of being “held down” by the “weight of the world” being on their shoulders, backs, and feet. The “Gummy’s” magically lift the “weight of the world” by inducing a vivid perception of the reduction of gravity’s pull on their bodies. In me, the “Weight Lifters” filled me with euphoria, like I had unhooked from earth and was in a sort of “gravity-lite” never-never land where I could skip, roller skate, or jump rope painlessly. That’s how I had my last fall: I was high on Weight Lifters, jumping up and down at the top of the stairs singing my version of the Peter Pan song: “I’m flying, way up high in the sky, like a frozen pizza pie, I’m flying.” I don’t know how he did it, and I never will, but my cat had nudged a large Teflon frying pan under my feet just as I was landing from a jump. When I landed in the frying pan slid down the stairs with me riding it like a surfboard. Luckily, surfing memories kicked in from my youth in California, and I rode the frying pan almost to the bottom of the stairs. I fell off on the second step and did not get hurt at all. But that’s when I decided to do something about the stairs, that, along with my homicidal cat, presented a growing danger.

Of course, one option would be to move into a one-story ranch house—no stairs, no problem. But, I couldn’t do that, mainly for sentimental reasons. My husband Ed would spin in his urn if I sold. We lived here all his life and raised six children here—only one was a loser. We could never figure out where we went wrong with Vick. He was violent, rude and uncaring. I always thought he might’ve been the result of a quicky I had in a supply closet at a “meet the teacher” night at Abby’s school. My sex partner was a professional wrestler named “Mauler Malone.” Vick looked a lot like him (from my vague recollection), and of course had wrestler characteristics—he couldn’t play nice. For example, he would choke and try to gouge his playmates’ eyes out during a game of Candy Land. He’s in prison for choking, trying to gouge his boss’s eyes out, and burning a warehouse down.

Anyway, another possible solution to my stair-falling is one of those chairs that hooks to the wall and rides up and down by the side of the stairs. I can afford one those things, but I don’t like them. They are ugly and they send the message “feeble person lives here.” I am too vain for that. Also, my grandchildren would pester the hell out of me for a ride. They’d whine and moan, and even threaten to hit me in the head with my crystal ashtray—just like Vick used to do. Hmmm. Anyway, a gigantic NIX goes out to the “Stairlifter.”

There’s no room for an elevator, so I’m down to the last option: “Carry That Weight” (CTW). CTW provides “burly, youthful, good-looking men to carry you up and down your dangerous stairs. Our men are representative of all races and ethnicities, and are randomly assigned.” I went for it! My assigned “Carrier” moved in with me. He wore a CTW lift alert bracelet. When I need a lift, I would press the button on my bracelet and he would find me and lift me. The major benefit, in addition to the lifts was being able to display my lifter when friends came over. They would assume he was my kept man, and become jealous.

Everything was great, except for my cat, “Ridiculous.” Believe it or not, he was jealous. He started winding around my lifter’s feet, and meowing, obviously trying to trip him up. He succeeded. My lifter was seriously injured in a fall down the stairs. Vick will get out of prison in 2 weeks and he is going to be my new lifter. In preparation, I’ve updated my will.


Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Merismus

Merismus (mer-is’-mus): The dividing of a whole into its parts.


“Divide things up between us”—sounds easy, up front, before you actually have to do it. When I was a kid, I was first acquainted with division vexations. We were only 15 years old, but we had a gang called the “Phantoms.” We were like the junior auxiliary to the “Titans,” a gang that had been doing business since right after the Revolutionary War. During the War they harassed Loyalists by stealing livestock, kidnapping Loyalists’ wives, and occasionally burning down a manor house and freeing the slaves of rich plantation owners. The Redcoats were often hot on their trail, but their superior knowledge of the lay of the land enabled them, most of the time, to evade capture. If they were caught, they were hanged without a trial. So, you could believe they were courageous.

When the War ended they got nothing—no recognition, no pensions, no nothing. So, they turned to crime, and still, after 100s of years that’s what they do. They specialize in arson, burglary, extortion, and hijacked shipments of CBD supplements. There are 12 members in the gang. If the booty from a given job isn’t an even number, or if there isn’t enough to go around, the Titans play rock/paper/scissors, breaking off into two person teams, that determine through a process of elimination, who gets a share of the booty. This process of elimination has kept them from killing each other ever since the gang’s inception, when “Luke Cold” Fawcet instituted the practice after returning from Sicily and assembling the first Titans into a European-style gang.

Unlike the Titans, the Phantoms used what we called “slash and burn.” In our adolescent minds, destruction was a favored option. When we couldn’t evenly divide, we either got rid of the whole haul, or we destroyed pieces until we got to an even number. We would squabble over how to effect the surplus’s destruction. It was usually accomplished by burning it, or throwing it off a bridge into a river. This worked beautifully. For example, we had stolen a truckload of Izod shirts that were being delivered to some upscale specialty store in NYC named “Hammermacthers.” We ended up with an odd number that we had to divide between an even number of gang members. Solution: burn the surplus shirts, and everybody would get the same size piece of the pie. Worked perfect! Then, Joey Freehand proposed a new idea:

Give what we can’t divide to widows and orphans. We could open a front and give stuff away that was supposedly “donated” by civic minded people and organizations. We had the cops covered. They “promised” not to look for stolen goods as long as we kept making “donations” to the police force. For a gang of adolescents, we were top-notch wiseguys. We named our store “Angel’s Outlet.” There’s a sign on the door that says “Widows and Orphans Only.” They had to show proof. Sometimes it was gruesome, but usually it was a death certificate. Once inside, they were allowed one item for free, and had to pay for the rest. We took only cash or gold or silver jewelry. Some of the widows tried to make a trade for something they wanted in addition to their free item. It was sad. Toaster ovens were frequently offered along with blenders, and even Pyrex casserole dishes. Our policy was “No Never” for everything but jewelry. I felt guilty enforcing it, but we didn’t want to be stuck with used crap, when our cache was “all brand new stuff.”

When I graduated from high school, I got out of the rackets. I went to college in New Hampshire and put my past behind me—so I thought. One of the orphans from my gang days was in most of my classes. We were both majoring in Anthropology. Her name was Ludmilla, and both of her parents had perished in a tornado that had ripped through south Florida. She recognized me immediately and told me she was still grateful for what the Phantoms had done for her. She told me she wanted to show me how grateful she was, if I would come to her dorm room at 11:00pm. I agreed, and showed up at 11. She was standing there with a ziplock bag. She handed it to me: “This is a remnant of my father: one of his glass eyes. It is precious to me. I have his other eye. If we each have one, it will make us a couple.” I looked at the glass eye. I thought, “What the hell.” We had the eyeballs made into pendants. We always joked that we could “see” how much we loved each other. After college, we studied further and became optometrists. We’d start each day by saying “the eyes have it.” We had a daughter we named “Hazel” named after the color of the glass eyes.


Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Mesarchia

Mesarchia (mes-ar’-chi-a): The repetition of the same word or words at the beginning and middle of successive sentences.


My hats are my passion. My hats are my inspiration. My hats are my corridor to what I can be. I started collecting hats when I was 10 years old. I got a set of electric trains for my birthday. Along with the train set, my father gave me an engineer’s hat. It had black and gray pinstripes and a tall floppy brim. The town’s train station was about two blocks from where I lived, It was a key stop for the commuter train going to and from New York City. I had a squirt can of “3-in-One Oil.” I’d walk up and down the platform in my hat pretending I was a railroad engineer waiting for my train. I’d tell people in thick railroad jargon that I was waiting for a “Brass Collar” (Railroad Bigwig) so we could have a look at the Clown Wagon” (Caboose) behind the “Battleship” (Large Locomotive) when it arrived from Hoboken at 3:30. Some people would laugh, others told me to go home where little boys belong. I understood that when I fell off the platform one day. People were screaming and yelling. The 2:30 from Newark was only 100 ft away, so nobody could help me. I laid in the middle of the tracks until the train stopped. I crawled out and the Conductor reached down and pulled me back up on the platform. He yelled, “You’re lucky to be alive!” as I ran for home, crying. My Mom asked me what was wrong, and I told her I had been tun over by the train from Newark. She smiled and said “You’re just like your father: an idiot! Have some milk and cookies.”

My second hat was a Union Soldier hat. Our family had taken a spring road trip to Washington, DC. We stopped at Gettysburg along the way to visit the famous battlefield where Lincoln had delivered his “Gettysburg Address” to dedicate a cemetery there. There was a museum there. It was a tribute to how crazy the US had gone, dividing into two separate countries and going to war. There was a gift shop attached to the museum that had a lot of Abraham Lincoln souvenirs—rulers with the “Gettysburg Address” printed on them and pencil sharpeners in the shape of Lincoln’s bust. There were placemats imprinted with photographic images of battlefield carnage, red white and blue garters, and cheap bourbon called “Famous Grant.” Then, there were the hats!

There were Union hats, and Confederate hats. I wanted a Confederate hat—I begged. My father called me a traitor and gave me his signature karate chop on the back of the neck. I blacked out for a second, like I always did. When I snapped back, I was wearing a Union soldier’s hat. “We won that damn war, and don’t forget it. Your great great great grand Uncle was killed by a Rebel—shot in the back and left to bleed to death on the battlefield at Shiloh. Never forget that. As we came out of the gift shop I saw a kid at the other side of the parking lot wearing a Rebel hat. I was mad after what my father had told me. I ran across the parking lot to kick the Rebel boy’s ass. I slipped on an oil spot, fell, and cut my knee. The Rebel boy came over and asked me if I was ok. I told him I was fine. He was from Fishhook, North Carolina. He told me his great great great grand Uncle was killed by a Yankee—shot in the back and left to bleed to death on the battlefield at Vicksburg. We made friends right there in that parking lot and were pen pals for years: he died on the battlefield at Can Tho in Vietnam.

In a way, my hat collection is a repository of memories—some good, some bad. I have 106 hats in my collection. When I put one on, it can be like flipping a switch on a time machine. I guess my most important hat is my Davy Crockett “raccoon skin cap.” Mine had a snap-on tail and glow-in-the dark eyes. It also had tuck-in ear flaps. When I put it on, I became “king of the wild frontier.” Knowing Davy had “killed him a bear when he was only three,” I was deeply disappointed that there were no bears in New Jersey that I could kill, but I went bear hunting anyway. I had a bow and arrow set that I had pulled the suction cups off of and sharpened the arrow shafts’ tips with my pencil sharpener. There was a patch of woods near were I lived. That’s where I went hunting. I never saw a bear, but once I saw my woodshop teacher Mr. Rippey with the girl’s gym teacher Miss Meedle. Miss Meedle was holding onto a tree while Mr. Rippey hopped up and down behind her. Now that I’m older, I know what was going on. At the time, I didn’t. When I told Mom what I had seen, she said “Oh my!” Nearly immediately, she called my school and asked for Mr. Rippey. When she got him on the line, she told me to leave the room.

Anyway, when you put something on your head, you put something in your head. Hats can affect your identity. Where would Napoleon have been without his hat? Mickey Mantle? The Cat in the Hat? Earnest Hemingway? Chico Marx? Tom Mix? Benny Hill? Queen Elizabeth? The Mad Hatter? There are hundreds more. Get a hat. Take a break from being you.


Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Mesodiplosis

Mesodiplosis (mes-o-dip-lo’-sis): Repetition of the same word or words in the middle of successive sentences.


I had 17 credit cards, some from the same bank. They made a neat shiny pile on my dining room table. I had 74 catalogues, they made a neat shiny pile too. I had clothing catalogues, ski equipment catalogues, weather predicting equipment catalogues, and the best one of all: a catalogue for “friendly women” from around the world. The friendly women business was called “Video Picnic.”

Every catalogue had a website, so all I needed to do was to peruse a catalogue, circle what I wanted, log on, and place my orders. I put my credit cards in a stack, about two inches high. I put my catalogues in a stack about one foot high. I had used my Costa Rican mailing address when I signed up for the cards. So, everything would go there, and I’d be safe. Basically, my plan was to buy a bunch of stuff and never pay for it, making fraud my new vocation.

I tested the waters with a solar-powered fingernail sander. it cost $189.00, and came with a five-year warrantee from a company located in Mexico called “Nails-so-Smooth: You can eat off them.” I thought that was a little weird, but I was on a mission. I would resell it on E-bay for $150 and make a tidy little profit. The transaction went trough without a hitch!

I couldn’t wait. I had to try out “Video Picnic,” the friendly women site. I logged onto the site where it guaranteed “life-long-love” for a non-refundable shipping fee of $2,000, including airfare. My love life was a total catastrophe. After four wives, I was almost ready to give up. I say “almost” because I was so lonely—it was as if everything I looked at or thought about, was a wall blocking my happiness. Maybe I shouldn’t have divorced wife #4–maybe it was a mistake. She had built a shooting range in the basement and used a picture of me as a target. I would hear “Bang!” and then, diabolical laughter. I thought it was only a matter of time before she climbed the stairs to the kitchen and let me have it. I asked her why she did it and she told me it was to improve her self-esteem. That fell in line with everything she did—it was to improve her self-esteem. She told me we couldn’t make love any more because it wouldn’t improve her self-esteem. There were a couple of other things we couldn’t do for the same reason, like spend time together or text each other on our cell phones. It finally ended when she told me that being married to me did not improve her self-esteem. I was devastated, but I let her go. In the end it was good for my self-esteem to lose her.

Before I tried “Video Picnic” I wanted to make sure my card was good to go. So, I randomly pulled a card from the stack and went to “Naked Bird” a business selling goose down products. They had a three-bedroom, 2 bathroom, 1400 square foot goose down home for sale for $225,000. This would test the limits of the credit card I was holding, which is supposed to be $500,000. My bogus financial records had landed me that limit. The goose down house had bamboo floors and the roof was shingled with faux fur that looked like coyote fur. The interior walls were cat-rip-proof Kevlar with built in book shelves made of recycled plastic soda bottles. So, I filled in the required info, and boom, the goose down home was mine.

Ok, video picnic time. It is set up like a slot machine. Instead of cherries and lemons, there are women streaming live in the slot machine’s 3” X 3” boxes. You get four spins to pick a woman. If you hit the jackpot, you get the “jackpot” woman for free. The slot machine illuminates the woman you’ve won on each spin, and blanks out the others. . You press a “yes” or “no” button to signify your choice. Each sequence of four spins costs $1,000. You may buy as many sequences as you want.

It looked interesting, and knowing my pick would be delivered directly to Costa Rica, I bought 4 spins and prayed I would live happily ever after. Number 1 was very plain looking and didn’t speak English. Number 2 was naked and covered in ugly tattoos. Number 3 was too tall. Number 4 held up her PhD diploma from Harvard University in Environmental Biology. She sang “Puff the Magic Dragon,” and she said “I guarantee a baby.” That was it! She would be mine. I was going to work the credit card scam for about two weeks, and then, planned to meet Lola in Costa Rica. We met, we married, we have a little girl. Lola’s background is very complicated, but we are as happy as can be—I call her “my slot machine bride” and we laugh, happy to be together.


Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Mesozeugma

Mesozeugma (me’-so-zyoog’-ma): A zeugma in which one places a common verb for many subjects in the middle of a construction.


Him: I am going for the weather, for the food, and for the scenery. You don’t think that’s all right. You think that we should immerse ourselves in the so-called culture. For me, that means going to the local fast food place, most likely Burger King, and seeing if it’s the same greasy cheesy mess on a bun that I can get at home. If it isn’t the same, I’ll complain to the proprietor. Meanwhile, you’ll be hunched by a brook eating salamander testicles off a wild mint leaf. Given that they are smaller than BBs, you and your “host” will probably wipe out the local salamander population before you’ve had enough. And oh, I vividly remember our last vacation, while I was laid out in a cabana flying on Mojitos, you just had to go with three local guys to explore the “Motel Fantasma” on the outskirts of town. They brought you back with a pillowcase over your head, and you lost your shoes, and purse, and all your cash and credit cards. You told me it was all worth it. You told me your “guides” were very courteous and took turns showing you their artifacts and very graciously illustrating their uses in a variety of ancient/timeless rituals. I still don’t know what the pillowcase was about. You told me they put it over your head when you were leaving Motel Fantasma because the air-conditioning had broken in their car and they had to put the windows down, and they didn’t want the wind to mess up your beautiful hair. Sounds sketchy to me.

Then, the next day, you went back to the motel to act in an amateur movie. Your co-star was a nineteen year old boy, that by local norms, had to get his mother’s written consent to do the movie with you. You told me the movie’s name was “Two Horses.” I had no idea where the horses came from, but it was great that you found your belongings (including your shoes) piled on the vibrating bed. Then, you told me you actually played one of the horses—it reminded me of “Midsummer Night’s Dream” when everybody turned into animals. But anyway, while you were soaking up the local culture, as you know, I went for a hike up in the mountains with no guide or anything.

I consider myself a “Manly Man.” We are a dying breed. I am an Eagle Scout. And let me tell you, my Eagle Scout project was international. You’ve only met my father once, but as you know, he is rich and powerful. As an arms dealer, he is well-connected with shady people around the world. He set me up with an internship in New Zealand. He had a surplus of small Swiss land mines that he needed to get rid of. He gave them to me to blow up rabbits, which were competing with sheep for grass, and winning. I donated the blown-up rabbit carcasses, and a couple of sheep “mistakes” to orphanages around New Zealand. I became known as “Bloody Jack” throughout New Zealand.

So, getting back to my story, there I was on a 10” wide trail with a 200 foot drop on one side and a 200 foot high wall on the other. I heard a rattlesnake. I looked and it was coiled up on a small ledge, level with my face. Remember dear wife, I am a macho man, just like the “Village People” sang. I didn’t hesitate. I wasn’t going to let the damn snake keep me from getting to the waterfall pool. I was going to grab that rattler and throw him over the 200 foot drop, and continue on my way to the waterfall pool. I grabbed the snake and he bit my hand.

Luckily, I had my cell phone and called 911. Before I knew it, a helicopter was hovering beside me, blowing rocks and dirt and dust around me. They lowered a piece of rope with a board on the bottom like a swing. I grabbed it, almost falling off the narrow trail. I sat in it and away we went, brushing the top of a pine tree and injuring my leg. We were lucky that some associates of my father’s airlifted us back to the States in an unmarked black C-130. We landed on a small airstrip in the middle of nowhere in northern Montana. There was a rental car waiting for us. You complained that it wasn’t an Uber.

You know, after recounting last year’s vacation adventures, and their horror (at least for me), I think we should buy a couple sets of Legos and a few cases of the best wine we can find, and hire some folk singers and a catering service specializing in cuisine from around the world, and stay home. As my Albanian grandfather used to say: “The sun at home warms better than the sun elsewhere.” I don’t believe the saying is true, but my grandfather was always very sincere when he said it.

Her: Every year I have to listen to your rambling bullshit recounting of the previous year’s vacation “catastrophe” as we plan this year’s vacation. Your story is crap. Unlike you, I had a great time last year. Your stupidity nearly cost you your life. Inevitably you concoct a stay-at-home plan, like this year’s. Legos? What’re you crazy? As you point out, your grandfather’s saying about home is bullshit. This year, we’re going to Botswana, so shut up! We’re going on a wildlife safari. “Adventure may hurt you, but boredom will kill you.” So, start packing you boring little twerp, we’re going on an adventure!

Postscript: The man’s wife was trampled to death by an elephant herd in Botswana. Then, she was dragged off by Hyenas. The next day they found one of her boots.


Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Metabasis

Metabasis (me-ta’-ba-sis): A transitional statement in which one explains what has been and what will be said.


Professor Pentaclause: I have told you all I know about crème sauce, it’s history, ingredients, and uses. Next, we’re going to have a look at my “difficulties” while I down a few shots of bourbon and smoke this joint. I’ve been teaching “sauces” here at “Governor Clockmoore’s School of Culinary Arts” for 8 years. As you know, Clockmoore’s is located at the pinnacle of perfection—it is like a Platonic Idea of culinary arts. We operate in full service of the senses, speaking to the taste buds in the languages of savor, sensuality, and lip-smacking revels spanning the spectrum from sweet to bitter, frozen to hot, chilled and warmed. I have diligently taught you that there is no real difference between what tastes good and what is good. That writhing in a field with your lover on a warm summer night under a star-filled sky is good, just as good as rescuing a puppy whose leg is stuck in a metal trap, mercilessly crushing his little speckled paw. When faced with the choice between what feels good, and what is good, what feels good should win the prize: what is good can hurt you and even possibly get you killed. Which should it be? Jumping in front of a bullet? Or, a large order of fries and a sojourn in a hot tub?

Yes. Yes. Thank you for the applause. But nobody is perfect. That includes me. I have succumbed to the good that has no apparent sensual payoff, and while I have told you to oppose it, and resist it, and seek sensual pleasure instead, I have not, and I have concealed it out of shame and embarrassment for not living in accord with my own credo: “If it feels good do it, and pay money for it if you have to.”

This baby Robin had fallen out of its nest. It’s mother was going crazy, cheeping and running back and forth on the nest’s branch. The baby Robin had landed in the street. It was a busy street with cars and trucks zooming back and forth. The baby Robin had landed on the white line. I was standing on the curb eating a Peruvian dark chocolate cupcake with mashed truffle icing and a small ball of edible gold foil on top. It tasted like it was made by angels who were in love with me and wanted to carry me off to Miami, or LA., or some other wonderland. But the baby Robin’s cheeping broke through the din and drew me into the street like a macaroon made by Pierre Desfontaines himself! Holding my cupcake over my head, I stepped into the traffic. Tires squealed. Horns honked. Curses were hurled. After almost getting killed a couple of times, I reached the baby Robin shivering and cheeping on the street’s white line. I threw my magnificent cupcake to the ground. I picked up the baby Robin and cupped my hands, and held the little guy as I risked my life getting back to the sidewalk. I was standing under the branch that the baby Robin had fallen from. I couldn’t reach the nest to return the baby Robin, so I threw it. After five or six tries, he landed in his nest, where his mother promptly threw him out. I picked him up and carried him home. I bought him a birdcage and named him Robin. I looked up baby bird food recipes on the internet. They were disgusting. I wasn’t ready to run earthworms through my high-tech blender, or mash them with a mortar and pestle. I dealt with my trepidations by garnishing the worms with egg yolks and finely chopped pickles.

My garnishes made Robin very sick. I had to take him to the Vet. The Vet pumped Robin’s stomach with an eye dropper and admonished me for what I had done. I should’ve read the whole baby bird feeding article—it explicitly said not to garnish the worms. I felt terrible. I had almost killed an innocent baby bird! But, in a weird way, I felt good—a different kind of good than my credo advocates. The feeling was intangible, yet somehow sensual. I am baffled.

Accordingly, I am taking a sabbatical. Robin and I will be taking up residence in a monastery specializing in coddling rich people who think they have stepped off the cliff of spiritually and are tumbling toward a giant puddle of mud filling a mall parking lot and preventing them from freely shopping. This is a complex metaphor requiring delicate and subtle philosophic examination. “Mumbo Monastery” provides the kind of bleak and austere environment that induces insight, reflection and facilitates personal change.

So, I’ll see you around. Where’s my Robin? Did anybody see where he went?

Student: Yes, Professor Pentaclause, the janitor grabbed him when you weren’t looking and ran out the side exit!

Professor Pentaclause: Oh. When you see him tell him I gave him the bird with both hands.


Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Metalepsis

Metalepsis (me-ta-lep’-sis): Reference to something by means of another thing that is remotely related to it, either through a farfetched causal relationship, or through an implied intermediate substitution of terms. Often used for comic effect through its preposterous exaggeration. A metonymical substitution of one word for another which is itself figurative.


Mike Melrose: Do you leave your chewing gum on the hood of your car overnight? How about on your wife’s forehead? How about your i-Pad screen? How about between your toes? I know you think you know where I’m headed here. Ok, the diversion’s not working. I know why I’m here. The bars give it away, and it’s true—there are men in white coats everywhere. I know it was a struggle getting me here—especially wrestling the garden rake out of my hands and hog-tying me with zip-ties. But after the orderly hooked me up, and the electric current coursed through my brain this morning, and the Thorazine this afternoon, I am calm and docile, if not sane. Turn on your recorder and get out your notepad. I want to tell you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

My life was completely normal. I supervised an animal shelter called “Four-Legged Fugitives.” The shelter’s name was self-explanatory: we didn’t take birds, snakes, kangaroos, fish, frogs, toads, or rabbits—just dogs, cats, rodents, and turtles. I loved my job. Animals were frequently abandoned on our doorstep in travel cages. We also found a few wandering the streets of Jersey City. Once, we found a turtle coming out of a bar. They had put him up on the bar and fed him some Jack Daniels from a shot glass. It wasn’t funny at all. The poor turtle had gotten one of his legs stuck in his shell. We took him to the shelter and he slept it off, and his leg came unstuck the next morning. Then, there was the Chihuahua/Pit Bull mix. He was the most viscous, incorrigible, monstrous dog I ever met. He was brought into the shelter on a Hannibal Lector Transport Device. He was the first dog I ever saw wearing a hockey mask. He had chewed off and eaten his owner’s index finger. His name was “Down!” One day a family—parents and a little boy—came into the shelter looking for a dog. The little boy ran to Down!’s cage. And there was Down! Laying on his back, tail wagging, as if he’d never eaten a finger. The family took Down! home, and we read in the paper how Down! had saved the family from would’ve been a fatal apartment fire. He woke up the family by chewing on the father’s index finger and growling loudly.

Now, we come to the crux of the matter: the cat. One day a beautiful cat showed up on our doorstep. It was shiny, sleek, and black, with white hind paws. He was wearing what turned out to be a turquoise-studded collar. The was no name tag. I looked him up on Google and found out he was a Siberian Forest Cat. His feet were huge, like snowshoes for walking in snow. His eyes were bright yellow, and his bushy tail would stick straight up in the air. I adopted him and brought him home in his crate. I bought cases of “Ten-Thousand Tuna Treats” and “Fancy Feast.” Of course, I got him kitty litter, and a kitty litter box. We were off to a great start. Then one night while we’re lying in bed, he looked at me and said: “I want to be a stand up comic.” He said, “if you don’t go along with this, I’ll scratch out your eyeball, and they’ll call you one-eyed Jack.” My name Jack, so the joke was pretty funny. Now I k new what to name him: Mr. Ed, after the talking TV horse. I was disappointed when Mr. Ed stole Steve Martin’s cat routine: catastrophe, catamaran, Catalina, Catalogue, Catfish, etc. I told him he was a thief and he lashed out at me, hissing, scratching, spraying. He was on my face and, as you can see he made my forehead into hamburger. I pulled him off my face and threw him at the wall, I thought I had killed him. The neighbors reported the ruckus, the police came, and here I am.

Doctor: Mr. Melrose, your story differs significantly from Mr. Ed’s. First, “Mr. Ed” is a six-year-old boy that you abducted from the park—he isn’t a cat, and his name is Ted. There is nothing wrong with your forehead. Your cat fixation and the vividness and persistence of your hallucinations are deeply disturbing and we’ll work on that while you’re here in the New Jersey State Casa Pazzo. In the meantime, the police are charging you with false imprisonment, assault and battery, attempted murder, and torture by force feeding Ted “Fancy Feast Pig Liver Slurry.”

Either you’re lying or totally crazy, or both.

Mr. Melrose: Goddamn cat.


Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Metallage

Metallage (me-tal’-la-gee): When a word or phrase is treated as an object within another expression.


Bert: If you say “stairway to heaven” again, I don’t know what I am going to do. Every other thing you see is a stairway to heaven. How can a used car lot be a stairway to heaven, or the CVS parking lot, or the two trash cans in my garage, or my fishing pole—I can sort of see it as a stairway to heaven, but not the rest of the stuff. Some people say “like” or “man” or “far out” a lot, but they’re just stuck in the sixties with bell-bottoms and platform shoes—creatures of an epoch carrying their pot-infused culture into the 21st century, trying to preserve “the dream.”

You, on the other hand are tangled up alone in a Led Zepplin wonderland borne on your junior prom, when your first dance ever in your life—a dance with Valletta Berge—was to Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” You’re 28 years old now—28 for Christ’s sake. Valletta is a single mom with 8 kids. Just like you and me, she never left town. I know you know, but I’ll tell you again anyway: Valletta lives with her 8 kids out by the railroad tracks in the derelict train station that was abandoned when the new one was built 5 years ago. She runs a day care center called “Ticket to Ride” at the station. The kids love it—riding their trikes around and playing “Choo Choo” on the railroad tracks while Valletta talks on her cell phone. Maybe if you go and see her and dance again to “Stairway to Heaven” on Spotify, it will purge you of you hellish repetitive use of “Stairway to Heaven” to label just about everything you see and experience.

Earnie: I knew at least four of Valletta’s kids were mine: Spike, Ricky, Chester, and Chrissy. Bert was wrong about them living at the train station. They had been put up for adoption at birth, but I had named them anyway. Three of the remaining kids had the same fate. Only “Queen Helene” (named after the organic stick deodorant), was kept and raised by Valletta.

Valletta knew I was coming to the station—Bert had warned her. When I saw her, we could’ve been back at the junior prom. She was so beautiful. She was wearing a white goddess gown. Queen Helene held its train as Valletta moved slowly toward me. All the day care kids came inside and lined up in two parallel rows, with their hands raised above their heads. We met halfway between the children. I booted up “Stairway to Heaven” on my cell phone. We embraced and slowly danced, and the children made a circle, and we danced, slowly, passionately. Valletta yelled “Kiss me before I melt.” I kissed her and suddenly we were standing together on a jewel-encrusted golden staircase that reached through the train station’s roof. “This is the staircase to heaven!” I yelled over the music, which had become very very loud: “Let’s climb it!” Valletta said, “I can’t. After all the babies I’ve had, I’m in really shitty shape. You’ll have to go alone.” I was disappointed, but I started climbing anyway. Queen Helene swooped in out of nowhere and pushed me down the stairs. She yelled, “Fuck all of you!” as she ran up the Stairway to Heaven. She disappeared through the train station’s roof. I had a mild concussion, two broken ribs and a broken ankle. Valletta came to visit me in the hospital and now she’s pregnant again.

After the horror of my accident, and the definite insanity of everything else that happened, “Stairway to Heaven” is no longer my go-to phrase of praise. I replaced it with “Under the Boardwalk.” Now, if I see or hear something I like I say, “That’s under the boardwalk.” Thanks to The Drifters 1964 recording, there will always be a romantic magical refuge, a place get away from it all, and maybe find some loose change with a metal detector. Bert has threatened to terminate our friendship over my latest phrase of praise, saying it is stupid. I responded: “Hey Bert! That’s under the boardwalk!” We both laughed and hugged. Bert started humping my leg, just like the old days, and I knew our friendship would never end.


Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Metaphor

Metaphor (met’-a-phor): A comparison made by referring to one thing as another.


I am 14. I am roadkill flattened on the road shoulder of life, dried to stiffness: The Frisbee of Death. I am a macabre plaything, tossed by giggling imps in a hellish competition. Am I the once-fat raccoon who rambled along Rte. 22, heading for the bulging dumpster behind Pompeo’s Grocery Store? Am I the nervous squirrel, anxious at the change of seasons, dashing heedlessly across Rte. 12, going straight for the towering oak tree loaded with acorns? Am I (How sad is this?} a black cat lost in the night looking for home—inexperienced on the highways and byways, scared by his owner’s celebratory fireworks, running from their threatening sound, now, finished running forever, useless safety collar flashing as cars and trucks speed by on Rte. 20 oblivious to the beloved pet Spoony, lifeless in the middle of the road.

I was trying to make today’s diary entry really depressing, maybe too depressing. My mother had tripped over the shoe that I had left in middle of our narrow hallway. She was on her way to the bathroom so the whole thing was a disgusting horrible mess, especially since mom is a little chunky. The ambulance attendants commented on her bulk as they lifted her onto the stretcher. I thought it was inappropriate, but Mom didn’t care—she was used to it. Anyway, Mom broke her ankle and it was all my fault, but in my head I refused to take the rap. Sure, I left the shoe there, but Mom should’ve turned on the hallway light and she should’ve realized that the supplements she had started taking would give her the poops, and make a dash to the toilet.

I kept my reservations to myself. Blaming Mom would’ve added to my sentence in my room—maybe earning me a life sentence. So, I thought if I could give her some kind of gift, we could be buddies again and I would be freed. But I was under lock-down in my room. All I had were my Tinker Toys; wooden shapes and dowels. The wooden shapes had holes drilled in them that you stuck the sticks in to build things. I would build something for Mom! But what? I looked at the white plastic Shmoo on my bookshelf—a sort of 5-inch nesting doll with eyes, whiskers and a smile. I always thought he looked like a standing walrus. All of a sudden, he winked! He said “You got a real friggin’ dilemma here! What the hell can you make for your mother with the goddamn Tinker Toys?” He swore! I almost started crying, but I knew he wanted to help me. He said, “Throw your Tinker Toys in the closet and close the door.” I did what he told me to do. The Shmoo made colored lights shoot out of his eyes for about a minute. I opened the door. There was a two-headed turtle standing there. The Shmoo yelled, “Jesus Christ! Close the goddamn door!” The Schmoo shot beams of light at the closet again. “Ok, open the door,” the Shmoo said. I opened the door. “What the hell is this?” (I had started swearing like the Schmoo) “It is called a microwave oven. It cooks things fast. Your mother will love it.” The Shmoo never spoke again.

I begged my dad to let me out of my room to give mom the microwave oven. With deep skepticism, he let me go, saying “I’ve got questions about this.” I had wrapped the microwave oven in taped-together pages from comic books. I put it on Mom’s tray table by her bed. She began unwrapping it. When she was done, she asked in angry tone: “Where the hell did you get this Herbert?” I was going to swear back at her, but instead I told her where it came from: “My Shmoo made it with magic eye rays out of Tinker Toys in my closet.”

So, here I am in Rock Bottom School for Reality Deprived Adolescents. This is my second day. I won’t change my story about the microwave oven. It is even less plausible to say I stole it. But stealing has emerged as the most acceptable account of what happened. I’ll probably be in this place for a few months, until I can bring myself to lie about what really happened. So much for the truth when you’re dealing with grownups, Goddamnit.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Metaplasm

Metaplasm (met’-a-plazm): A general term for orthographical figures (changes to the spelling of words). This includes alteration of the letters or syllables in single words, including additions, omissions, inversions, and substitutions. Such changes are considered conscious choices made by the artist or orator for the sake of eloquence or meter, in contrast to the same kinds of changes done accidentally and discussed by grammarians as vices (see barbarism). See: antisthecon, aphaeresis, apocope, epenthesis, paragoge, synaloepha.


Things have gone baaad, baaad, baaad. My sheep are in open rebellion. I imagined they were saying, “We herd too much. It isn’t healthy. We all have the same cough and we’re turning yellow.” They were right about the coughing! 645 coughing sheep couldn’t be ignored. It was a loud rasping cough that sounded like 100 giant trapped hamsters scratching from behind a plaster wall, trying to get out. And, they had turned a shade of very light yellow.

Aside from their wool, lamb stew, and lamb chops, the best thing about sheep is their docile herding instinct. They go everywhere shoulder-to-shoulder. My prize-winning sheep dogs move them around the fields in a wooly lump. If anybody breaks ranks, a sheep dog will break ranks too, running down, and herding the renegade back into the flock. But now they were sick, coughing, changing colors.

I had to call the only vet within 300 miles. His name is Dr. Schmoz, His family had first emigrated to the United States from Canada near the end of the 19th century. Dr. Schmoz had graduated from “Fur, Fins, Feet, Feathers, Shells, and Scales School of Taxidermy and Veterinary Medicine LLC,” registered in Delaware. Dr. Schmoz has two specialties: 1. Turtle Repair, 2. Sheep Counseling. He used SuperGlue to repair cracked turtles that were dropped or run over. Of course, many of the turtles were considered road kill. In those cases he needed nearly surgical skills to glue them back together, to take their places under glass domes on the fireplace mantles of their owners. Sometimes he would pose them with dice or a poker hand between their claws.

Given the reach of his “Vet Domain,” Dr. Schmoz had a helicopter. As he landed in front of my house, I caught a glimpse of the full-sized picture of Snoopy on the side, in his WW1 fighter pilot garb. Dr. Schmoz jumped out of his helicopter with a bullhorn in his hand. He turned toward the flock and yelled into bullhorn: “Disperse!” It didn’t work. He said: “Obviously, they can’t be counseled. Why? As I was flying in, I noticed your sheep have Golden Fleece Flu. It starts with coughing, then, unbridled belligerence, then the fleece turns light yellow, and then, boom, all the sheep die. You have so many sheep, I could hear coughing from 500 feet up, and they looked angry too. Their wool is starting to take on a yellow tinge, as well. Luckily, I have a medicated spray mist I am developing that will motivate your sheep to unflock and, thereby, be cured of the flu. I’ll spray it from my helicopter.” I agreed.

After one pass, things started to change. Instead of dispersing, the sheep packed closer together and faced me and the dogs. On the second pass, the coughing stopped and the dogs ran away. On the third pass they turned light yellow and started racing toward me. I caught a glimpse of Dr. Schmoz as he flew past. He was wearing a helmet with ram horns glued to it. He swooped down and pushed back the flock, which was no longer yellow. The sheep were going their separate ways. The dogs returned. Dr. Schmoz’s spraying had cured the sheep. I asked Dr. Schmoz what his secret was. He said, “A degree from a questionable vet school, a good lawyer, and wealthy parents. Their money pays for my legal fees, and the random chemicals I mix together in my basement, looking for cures for animal ailments. We were really lucky with your sheep. My last remedy caught on fire and boiled all the fish residing in a fish tank outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where I expect to be indicted.

Despite his apparent insanity, I thanked Dr. Schmoz and paid him, and he helicoptered off to his next adventure: the development of a weight-loss program for a middle-aged female manatee.

After all that had happened, I was looking forward to a quiet dinner. As I crumbled my saltines into my lamb stew and eyed the small pile of lamb chops on the table, a loud banging on the front door began. I got up and opened the door and there was a huge ram staring me down. I slammed the door shut. The sheep had breached the perimeter fence and had surrounded my house. I was trapped! I called 911 and told them I was surrounded by 645 angry sheep. I heard laughter and the phone went dead. I picked up Dr. Schmoz’s bullhorn, which he had left lying on the couch, but I didn’t know what to say. So, I put down the bullhorn and waited to die, certain I would be smothered by the pressure of the wooly bodies of the angry flock, sandwiching me between them.


Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Metastasis

Metastasis (me-tas’-ta-sis): Denying and turning back on your adversaries arguments used against you.


I was always a good boy. I would play with my plastic cowboys in the sandbox. They weren’t allowed shoot each other or use swear words. I washed them each week in the dishwasher and then let them air dry, for their health and welfare. I think they were grateful because none of them ever ran away, including their horses. I made my bed every morning, with hospital corners and my bedspread was always perfectly parallel to my headboard. I put my dirty clothes in the basket in my closet to make it easier for Mom to manage them on washday. I also folded my own laundry. I’d go down into the basement and retrieve my laundry from the dryer, carry it to my room, and fold it. One Saturday morning, when I was getting my stuff in the basement, I noticed there was a pair of my mother’s underpants mixed in with my laundry. I put them on my head and started doing “The Pony,” a dance made popular by Chubby Checker. Everybody was doing it, and I thought I looked pretty cool “pulling the reins” in my Captain Kangaroo bathrobe: “Boogety, boogety, boogety, shoo,” I sang as I ponied around the basement. I had found a piece of clothesline rope, and I was swinging it around my head like a cowboy lariat. “Yee haa!” I yelled.

Suddenly, I was galloping across the prairie with Chubby. we were being chased by a posse. I heard one posse member yell, “You low life sidewinder. You slop bucket full a’ human poop! What in tarnation makes you think you can wear your mother’s underpants on your head like that? Pervert!” I yelled back: “You butt-faced hombre! I can wear what I want on my head! Back-off!” He fired a shot at me. I felt it zip through my mother’s underpants, barely missing my skull. We had ridden into a box canyon—no exit. We were doomed. Since they weren’t after him, Chubby reined in his horse, and got him down to a slow trot. I roared past him right into the canyon wall.

I woke up on the basement floor, still wearing my mother’s underpants on my head—they were getting tight, making my forehead itch. My ears were ringing and my nose was dripping blood. My father was leaning over me. “You slipped in the little puddle the washing machine makes—which I was going to fix someday soon, but I forgot. Obviously, you hit the wall head-first and knocked yourself out. You should be more careful.” I was mad. “I should be more careful? You lazy-ass sidewinder!” I couldn’t believe I called my father a “lazy-ass sidewinder,” but he was partially to blame. Then I yelled, flat on my back, “And I’ll wear Mom’s underpants on my head whenever and wherever I want!” He tried to rip Mom’s underpants off my head, but I held on tight despite my injuries. I heard sirens. I new I’d soon be on my way to the hospital.

They washed me up and x-rayed my head and put me in bed with a tube in my arm. Aside from the ringing ears, I felt pretty good. But, they told me I had a medium-bad concussion and to rest at the hospital for a week in case there were any complications. The next day, Mom showed up and she wanted her underpants back. She told me the last time her underpants went “traveling” was in her freshman year of college when she dated a Frat boy who collected girls’ underpants as a hobby. After their date, he shoved Mom’s underpants under the front seat of his car and drove away, leaving her to walk back to her dorm. She had to walk a mile along the side of the dark and deserted highway. She knew her underpants would be tagged and displayed in the Frat house, but she didn’t care because of all the famous underpants displayed there belonging to her university’s famous female graduates. I asked for names. She curtly said “No” and that was that. I suspected it was Dad. They had gone the same college and that’s where they had met. Plus, Dad had been in a fraternity. I had a back-up pair of underpants, so I gave them to Mom and kept the other ones for future adventures.

After that episode I my life, I never wore Mom’s underpants on my head again, except at her funeral ten years later. At that point in my life, I was a glutton for attention. Instead of throwing a handful of dirt into her open grave, I threw her underpants—the very same pair that I was wearing on my head when I was injured so many years ago. Some relatives screamed when I made my move, and my uncle Bill, who was standing alongside me, turned and punched me in the face at least five times. The undertaker retrieved the underpants and gave them to my father. Now, I would be going back to “Tranquil Roads” where I’d been living ever since the accident in the basement.


Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Metonymy

Metonymy (me-ton’-y-my): Reference to something or someone by naming one of its attributes. [This may include effects or any of the four Aristotelian causes {efficient/maker/inventor, material, formal/shape, final/purpose}.]


Where I grew up he was known as “The Man of Steal”—if you’re reading this, and not hearing it, you know I’m not talking about Superman. I’m talking about stealing, robbing, pilfering, ripping off, boosting, heisting, and all the other words for depriving people of their property, stealthily, quietly, and undetected, or, by force with punches, blunt force, or bullets. In the inverted order of values operative where I grew up, The Man of Steal was a celebrity. His convenience store robberies were fabled. “The Robbery of the Nighty Mart” was a song that we learned as boys and would sing instead of the “The Star Spangled Banner” at school assembly. There was also a poem that could be sung to the tune of “Davy Crockett.” “Born in a Warehouse in NYC, The most Dangerous City in the Land of the Free, Killed him a cockroach when he was only three, Man of Steal, Man of Steal, King of NYC.”

Man of Steal was the first thief to wear a black balaclava in an armed robbery. In his first attempt, the balaclava he wore had Frosty the Snowman printed all over it. The store owner laughed at him and Man of Steal hit him over the head with a carton of eggs from the store’s refrigerator. Now, the owner was slumped in a corner by the door dripping raw egg. Man of Steal probably thought “You’re not laughing now Mr. Yo-yo.” With the store-counter phone, he called the fire station to come and hose the owner down, emptied the fresh produce display, grabbed a chocolate Yoo-Hoo drink, and went out the door. After the “Frosty” incident, Man of Steal wore only solid-black balaclavas. Prior to “The Great Balaclava Innovation,” robbers wore folded handkerchiefs over their faces. Folded corner-to-corner, they would be draped over the nose, leaving the eyes uncovered, and tied in the back. They would frequently slide down the face and get stuck around the robber’s neck, revealing the robber’s identity. The balaclava was a godsend: put it on coming through the door, pull it off going out the door. How convenient! How effective!

I met Man of Steal when I was 11. Ma had sent me to “Cole’s Convenience Corner” to get a fresh chicken, 4 baking potatoes, 1 package of frozen peas and 2 packs of “Lucky Strikes” for grandpa. He had recently switched to “Luckies” from “De Nobili” cigars. The doctor had told him he would die less quickly if he smoked “Luckies.” Ma promised to subsidize his tobacco habit if he would switch. So, he switched. Anyway, I was walking up to the entrance of Cole’s when the door burst open and a man tearing a black balaclava off his head charged out the door carrying a box under his arm. He knocked me flat on the pavement. It was Man of Steal—and I had seen his face! I was a dead boy. He said, “You forget me & l’ll forget you.” I said “Ok.” He said: “That’s good. Now I don’t have to shoot you.” He walked away like nothing happened. But I recognized him.

It was Father Carmody, our parish Priest. I had promised to forget him, and I would honor my promise at all costs, especially since he was a Priest. But as time went by, and “The Man of Steal” was still ripping off convenience stores, I considered breaking my promise. I decided to go ahead and break it. I would do it in the confessional where both of us would be anonymous. So, I told him I knew who he was. I heard the unmistakable sound of an automatic pistol cocking from his side of the confessional. “Let me confess to you, son.” I was stunned. “First, I don’t have gun, what you heard were the grass trimmers I was using before I came back into the Church. I should’ve left them outside. My confession is short: everything I have stolen from the convenience stores has been donated to the Church’s food bank, except for a random soft drink or two. Over the years, I have saved countless people from going hungry because they can’t afford the high-priced food at the convenience stores and they have no way to shop elsewhere.” Even though I was only eleven, I almost said “Jesus Christ!”

But instead, I said, “That’s not totally disgraceful, but you could go to jail. I tell you what. Make me an Altar Boy with unlimited access to the sacramental wine, and I will forget your confession forever. Are we good?” He pulled a .45 out of his vestment, cocked it and pressed it between my eyes. He said, “Ok, we’re good. Just keep your mouth shut.”


Definition courtesy of “Sliva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu). Bracketed text added by Gorgias.

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Ominatio

Ominatio (o-mi-na’-ti-o): A prophecy of evil.


I’ve been a prophet ever since I predicted the New York Mets’ first win on April 23, 1962. I prophesied that the Mets would “lash the Padres with whips of hits and drown them in the tobacco juice of victory.” Given that the Mets were serial losers at the time, the odds were right and my bet with Bobby the Book won a fortune. Since then, I’ve been a weatherman on local TV here in Queens. I am “Moe the Weather Prophet.” I have never been wrong about the weather—never! Well, almost never—“Billion Dollar Betsy” back in the sixties caught me with my pants down—literally. I was working overtime up in Jersey City, doing consulting with my two favorite secretaries, and missed all the hurricane warnings. We were pumping quarters into the vibrating bed, drinking vodka and practicing our trio trampoline act. The impending storm was the farthest thing from our thoughts at the time. Like I said, we were oblivious, consulting each other passionately as we played Twister on the bed.

Thank God those days are over. With all the weather technology, weather forecasting is a snap. In fact, it is such a snap that it has become boring. I’ve decided to get out of the weather business and into the “whether” business— making predictions about whether or what: whether something will happen and what it will be. So, I want to upgrade from prophet to shaman. This will involve traveling to a remote location in a jungle somewhere. At least, that’s what I thought. I had mentioned my desire to upgrade to shaman on my weather show. Of all the calls I got, one stood out.

The guy had a thick New Orleans accent—you know—the one that sounds like Brooklyn, New York. He told me his name is Jacques LaCreme. He said he specialized in voodoo, but would veer off into “shamanizing” if the price was right. I told him the price would be right. We agreed on the price, and I took off for New Orleans the next day. Like an idiot, I didn’t check him out, but I saw no reason to doubt him. I worried a little bit and then fell asleep on the plane. I dreamed I was in the sky, jumping from cloud to cloud. If I missed a cloud, I would fall thousands of feet. I missed. I was terrified. Jacques’s disembodied voice said: “Your plane crashing. Tighten your seatbelt and put your head between your knees.” I woke up sweating. Everything was fine. It was only a dream.

I met Jacques at the airport and we took a cab to his “place.” His place was filled with weird stuff—there was a large tortoise on the carpet with his neck sticking out, a jar full of eyeballs, a small pile of human skulls, a large calendar, and more. He gave me some herbal tea in a bamboo cup. It was called Mesca-Cola. I saw myself as an old man. I had chopsticks sticking out of my ears and a box of Cohibas resting on my chest. The cigars were snake-like and one slithered up between my lips. A nurse lit it and I lay there puffing. Reality reappeared slowly. I yelled “Am I a shaman yet?” Jacques laughed: “No. But you have experienced the altered state of consciousness necessary to imagine almost anything. That is the key. Your shaman responsibilities are not predictive. Rather, they are advisory.” That was a relief to hear. He went on: “You drink the “Mesca-Cola,” you have the vision. Then, you interpret it in accord with the client’s question. So, you need to develop critical interpretive skills, like those of literary or theatre critics, knitting your vision together with your client’s question, like the critic does with a story or a script.”

Wow. This was a lot to think about. I decided to enroll in an on-line creative writing program. There’s a course I’m especially interested in: “Shams, Shamans, and Socrates: Simulacra and Post-Fictional Foundational Narratives.” Sometimes I think I should’ve stuck with the weather. While the high of Mesca-Cola is breathtaking, the high of 65 degrees Fahrenheit seems more real, more tangible. Sometimes we need that, or maybe not.


Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Onedismus

Onedismus (on-e-dis’-mus): Reproaching someone for being impious or ungrateful.


As far back as I can remember—maybe I was five years old—my father referred to me as “You ungrateful little bastard.” I’m 22 now and he still calls me an “ungrateful little bastard.” I can’t think of anything he ever did that I should be grateful for. Growing up under his barbed wire wing was nothing to be grateful for. My mother supposedly disappeared when I was three, so it was just me and dad all the way. Maybe I should be grateful that he didn’t disappear like Ma did. Living with him, every day has pretty much been the same. At breakfast, I have milk and cereal and he shuffles into the kitchen in his cigarette-burned, food-flecked flannel bathrobe. He grabs the open bottle of “Old Grandad” from the kitchen counter and takes a long swig. “Ahhh, that’s the worst whiskey in the world. I bet Old Grandad pisses in every bottle.” Then, he’d pull a bottle of orange juice from the refrigerator, and take a big slug right out of the bottle, with juice dripping off his chin, he’d ask “What the hell is this? It tastes like shit.” Then he went upstairs to get ready for work. He was a movie theater usher, working alongside three teen-aged boys. He wears a uniform that makes him look like a general from some third-world country. It has epaulets that look like gold hairbrushes, a military hat with the theatre logo on the front, and black patent leather shoes. He always kept a supply of Sen-Sen in his pocket to camouflage the smell of Old Grandad on his breath while he was at work.

This week, he was assigned to matinees, so he didn’t have to be to work until 2:00 pm. I decided to finally ask him what I had to be “grateful” for. I thought he would probably punch me, or yell, or kick me out of the house. He did none of those things. Instead, he looked like he was wilting and on the verge of tears. “I’ve been meaning to explain the ‘ungrateful little bastard’ outbursts for years. Now is as good a time as I’ll ever find, so, get ready.” I wasn’t ready. I started to feel like maybe it was better that I didn’t know. He said: “Are you ready, you ungrateful little bastard?” I told him “No.” He didn’t care. “Your Ma was beautiful. She was kind and loving—too loving. She had an affair with Mel Turner, our unmarried neighbor who worked as a night watchman at the Chevy plant. He had his days to himself. So, when I was working the matinee shift at the theatre, Mel and Ma would meet at his place and have sexual relations.” I couldn’t believe it. My Ma banging our neighbor? My God! I felt sick. Dad continued: “I came home early one day and surprised her. She was writing a letter.” He left the room and came back quickly with the letter. “Dear Mel, I am going to have a baby. It isn’t my husband’s. His penis was injured during the war and it won’t get stiff any more. That leaves you Mel—you’re the baby’s father. Accordingly, you must pay for the abortion I’ve made an appointment for in Newark next week. My husband must never know what we did. After this is over, please wear a rubber.” “What has this got to do with me?” I asked. Dad looked at me like he wanted to kill me. “The ‘baby’ is you,” he yelled, pounding on the kitchen table. “It’s you!”

“I wouldn’t let your mother go to the abortion appointment. Even though you weren’t my kid, Ma’s pregnancy gave me an opening to be a father, even though it was fake—I planned to act like your father, like you were adopted and nobody knew it. I kept your Ma prisoner. I knew she would try to escape, so I made a comfortable chainlink cage for her with a Porta-Potty, a TV, a couch, and a TV table. It was in the basement, so nobody could hear her cries for help. Then, one day, Mel broke in and tried to free your Ma. I’ll never know why he didn’t just call the police. I clubbed him the on the head and killed him. Your Ma was nine months pregnant. She went into labor in her cage and I delivered you. She bled to death on the floor. After I dismantled her cage, I called the police. I told them that Mel broke into our home and had startled my wife so badly that she went into labor, and that I had taken the club away from him and hit him on the head. No charges were filed, and here we are today. So, now, when I call you an ‘ungrateful little bastard,’ you’ll understand.” I told him I understood the “little bastard” part, but how could I be ungrateful about something I didn’t know anything about? He yelled, “That’s the point!” and left for the theater.

I think my father had confessed to murdering Mel. He probably killed my Ma too. I didn’t know what to do, so, I decided to go to graduate school.


Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.ed).

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Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia (on-o-mat-o-pee’-a): Using or inventing a word whose sound imitates that which it names (the union of phonetics and semantics).


I was banging on the door—bang, bang, bang. Three bangs was the rule. If there was no answer after three sets of three bangs, I upgraded to pounding. There were no “sets” to pounding. Pounding was just a rapid fist to door motion that continued until I got a response. Still no response? Time for the battering ram—a six-foot section of 3” pipe filled with concrete, and two welded-on handles—one for each hand—the front one, perpendicular to the pipe, the rear one parallel to the pipe. If all else failed, I was authorized to use Class A explosives, including C4 and dynamite. I had handled a lot of explosives in Vietnam where I got real good at blowing up anything I was asked to blow up, and also lighting things on fire without using telltale petrol.

The battering ram didn’t cut it. Next up: the bomb. If the bomb on the door didn’t work, I’d light the place on fire, but given my experience, I was nearly certain the bomb would blow the door. The bomb was difficult, though. Bombs made a lot of noise and attracted attention. So, I had a remote detonator. I could blow the bomb from a quarter-mile away, and then rush to the site like a concerned citizen. If the door wasn’t blown, I’d wait for the crowd to clear and then light the place on fire. By the way, if at any time the occupant fires a weapon at me, I am authorized to spray them with my MAC-10.

You may wonder what the hell I’m doing, who the hell I work for, and what the hell happened to the world. Well, it’s 2028 and violence is the preferred and legal way of resolving disputes. The 1960’s are so dead that they’ve turned into worm-infested humus. In fact, any mention of the 60’s or Woodstock will net you 2 years in prison. Since I work for the IRS, I am exempt from the “Unauthorized Mention Act of 2027” and other Federal Laws that were passed after Congress voided the Constitution in 2025. Many passages were outlawed and all the authorized passages are published in the “Little Red Book.” Every citizen is required to wear a “Little Red Book” around his neck and refer to it before speaking.

Despite the prevalence of violence, the NRA (National Riot Act) requires every citizen to carry a concealed handgun. People are randomly patted down, and if they are not packing heat, they’ll be shot, but not fatally, so they will have time in the hospital to think about the Big Law, lovingly enacted by Congress to promote citizens’ self-defense and welfare.

Anyway, the door bomb worked. It blew a 5×5 hole in the wall. So, I just waltzed in. There was Mr. Fry, cowering in his soiled underpants in a corner of what I guessed was his living room. There was a lot of smoke, and everything was flipped over. I asked Mr. Fry if he knew why I was there. He nodded, nearly crying. I said: “Under Federal Tax Law Section 26, Failure to pay taxes under $1,000, I am authorized to arrest you and escort you to a hospital where one of your kidneys, and one of your lungs, and 6-feet of your intestines will be harvested and sold on the ‘New York Organ Exchage’ to settle your debt. Do you understand?” He nodded again, and off we went. I considered shooting him, and taking his fresh corpse to one of the many “Chop Shops” that popped up when buying and selling organs became easy and legal under Congress’s “Save the Rich Act,” but I had integrity, and besides, I was in the vanguard of government service as an IRS Agent—I helped raise the money to keep the whole thing going. Nevertheless, Mr. Fry was lucky his debt was under $1,000—anything over that and he wold’ve been conscripted into the “National Slave Corps” and put to work for life in one of the recently created colonies in South America, or the United States of Mexico.

When I got home I was delighted that my grandchildren were there. As we sat around talking, my grandchildren asked me why things have changed so much. I got nervous, and hoped they weren’t subversives. I asked them, “Where did you get that question?” I was fearful they were going to make the illegal comparison between the past and present that claimed things had gotten worse. “Grandma told us,” they said, “We live in a beautiful world, with the bloodstains on the sidewalks, the return of slavery, censorship, air pollution, the outlawing of abortion, the elimination of Social Security, and other things, we live in a beautiful world.” My head was spinning. Their minds had been stained by Grandma’s subversive sarcasm. What could I do? I would never turn them in for “suspicious talk.” Maybe if I just sacrificed one of us, it would keep the rest of us out of harm’s way. “Grandma?” I said in my sweetest husband voice. “Let’s take a ride.”


Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Optatio

Optatio (op-ta’-ti-o): Expressing a wish, often ardently.


“Oh, I’d love to be an Oscar Mayer wiener.
That is what I’d truly like to be.
‘Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener,
Everyone would be in love with me.

Oh, I’m glad I’m not an Oscar Mayer wiener.
That is what I’d never want to be.
Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener.
There would soon be nothing left of me!”

When I first heard this as a kid, I wondered what was wrong with the kid singing the song. He thought people would love him if he was a hot dog. Can you imagine that: “Oh honey, you’re the sleekest, pinkest hot dog I’ve ever known. I love you. Let’s make some ‘little smokies’ together.” But it gets worse. The kid with wienerphillia wants everyone to love him, and believes that being a hot dog will make that happen. Sadly, the concept of love the he has is not agape. In fact, it is just the opposite. Within the short scope of the jungle, he reverses his position, deciding not to be a hotdog. The abrupt turnabout is puzzling at first. But when he musically tells us that being loved leads to being eaten, we can see why he changed his mind. And it is people who are eating him. As a hot dog, he eligible for lunch. Of course, being eaten would be painful, not to mention the boiling water or microwaving that make him edible. Not only that, being eaten is a death warrant. The only up side I could imagine, was getting to go to Labor Day and Fourth of July gatherings, and being loved.

So, when I first heard the “love to be an Oscar Mayer Wiener” song , I was 12 years old. We had “beans and weenies” at least once a week. I couldn’t get over the idea that love is a kind of cannibalism that involves eating the object of your affection, and that hot dogs, accordingly, might be made out of processed people. My big sister didn’t help that much when I asked her about hot dogs. Our across the street neighbors had recently moved and their house was vacant. My sister told me they had actually been made into hot dogs, and we were going to have them in our beans and weenies the next night. I was the most gullible 12-year-old on the planet. “Wrong reasons” underwrote my thinking: I would believe things were true for the wrong reasons, and I would think things weren’t true for the wrong reasons. For example, in the case of the wiener song, I thought it was true because it was on TV—that the singing boy was sincere, his wiener-desire was powerful, and his fear of being eaten by humans was well-founded. So, I believed my sister: our beans and weenies would include pieces of our processed neighbors. I was filled with dread.

It was bed time. I kissed Mom good night and shook hands with Dad. I’d tried to kiss Dad on the cheek once, and he shoved me away. I fell on the floor and I cut my knee on an errant Tinker Toy. My mother hit my father in the face with a rolled-up magazine and yelled “Apologize to the boy you goddamn oaf!” He apologized, and we agreed to shake hands instead of hugging or anything like that in the future.

Mom tucked me in and I quickly fell asleep. I had become a hot dog! I dreamed I was driving a hot dog-limo with a beautiful blond wiener by my side. We were headed to Las Vegas where I was booked for 2 weeks to sing my wildly popular “I’d love to be a Wiener” song. We crossed the Nevada state line and stopped for gas. I got out of the hot-dog limo to stretch my legs and the guy pumping gas said “I’d love to eat you.” My blond wiener-friend suddenly disappeared. Then, four men came out of the gas station carrying a very large hot dog bun on their shoulders, like a casket at a funeral. They put down the bun and wrestled me into it—being a hot dog, I wasn’t very strong or agile. While two of the men kept me pinned in the bun, the other two covered me with ketchup and mustard from four #10 cans, and chopped onions and pickle relish from two big glass jars. They couldn’t pick me up to eat me like a regular hot dog. So, one of them plugged in an electric chain saw. Just as the chain saw started to cut me in half, I woke up screaming, “You can’t eat me! I’m not cooked!” I ran to my parents’ bedroom yelling “You can’t eat me! I’m not cooked!” Mom and Dad were bouncing up and down on their bed making weird sounds. When my father saw me standing in the door, he yelled “Get out of here you perverted little bastard. Goddamnit!”

So, I went to my sister’s room to tell her about my hot dog nightmare. She apologized to me about lying about our neighbors being made into hot dogs. I felt somewhat relieved until I noticed the big bottle of ketchup on the nightstand by her bed. I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror to see if I was a hot dog. I wasn’t, but I had bread crumbs all over my pajamas and I smelled funny.


Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetorica” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Orcos

Orcos (or’-kos): Swearing that a statement is true.


“I swear on my mother’s grave that it’s true.” This was a popular saying where I grew up. It supposedly bolstered your avowal of truth by bringing your dead mother up, and the sanctity of her grave, as warrants—if you lied while swearing on her grave at the same time, it would double damn you with disrespect for your dead mother and disrespect for the truth. Swearing on your mother’s grave is a pretty morbid way to establish your credibility, and I’m not sure if my understanding of its rationale is right. But the odd thing was, we were just kids and our mothers were all still alive.

Despite not having a mother’s grave to swear on, we used the credibility-generating saying. To make it work, we discussed it and decided we were referring to future graves. Everybody dies sooner or later, so pushing the grave reference into the future was taken as a good-faith promise to actually swear on a mother’s grave after she died as a way of settling the times you swore on it when it was non-existent. This all made perfect sense to me, and I went on with my life.

Then, ten years later, my mother died of kidney failure. My mother grew up in Arizona. She was an actual cowgirl when she was in her early teens to early twenties. In my favorite picture of her she’s holding a dead 4-foot long rattlesnake in one hand and a six-shooter in her other hand. She was wearing boots and jeans and a flannel plaid shirt. This was topped off by a black cowboy hat with a beautiful concha-decorated hatband, and a belt buckle shaped like a longhorn steer. She met my Dad when he was stationed in Arizona during the Vietnam War. He was a mechanic in the Air Force. That’s all I know.

When they got married Dad had been discharged from the Air Force. They moved to New Jersey where Dad had grown up working in an ESSO refinery in Linden. He got his old job back. He came home every night smelling like a big can of motor oil. I don’t know how my mother stood it, given where she grew up. After I was born, I became the center of Mom’s life, displacing my father. He resented it. He resented me. He would leave me at the bus station or the train station hoping I’d be abducted. I would always show up back at home and he would curse while Mom would cry with joy. But now, me and Dad were following a hearse with Mom’s body on board—driving from New Jersey to Arizona, listening to Bruce Springsteen on the satellite. It made no sense, but my father never made any sense—he was a jerk, a fool, and an idiot. We should’ve flown. After four days driving, we arrived in Sedona, AZ—where Mom grew up and where we were going to bury her. It would be my mother’s grave—the real thing. After she was buried, I took a picture. The grave was pitiful. There was no headstone, just a wooden cross made out of treated 2X4s with Mom’s initials and her birth and death dates on a nailed-on plaque. We probably could’ve bought a nice headstone with what it cost us to drive from New Jersey to Arizona. But, like I said, my father was a jerk, an idiot, and a fool. Let’s add cheap bastard to that.

Now, when I say “I swear on my mother’s grave,” it’s not just an empty catchphrase—she’s actually dead and buried. When I swear on my mother’s grave, I pull out a copy of the picture of her grave I took at the cemetery in Arizona. Then, for further assurance, I give the picture to the person I’m trying to convince of my truthfulness. Usually, they back up saying, “No, no, no. That’s all right. I believe you!” I’m never sure whether they mean it, or whether they’re just trying to get away from me. I swear on my mother’s grave that I just don’t know, but God knows, I’d like to know. I cross my heart and hope to die.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Oxymoron

Oxymoron (ox-y-mo’-ron): Placing two ordinarily opposing terms adjacent to one another. A compressed paradox.


Jumbo shrimp. I’m not laughing. I never laughed. It stood alone. You couldn’t blend it into a one liner—you had to elaborate. You had to explain, and then you got the laugh. Usually, after the explanation and the first laugh, you do a string of oxymorons: alone together, grow smaller, climb down, small crowd. Still not funny.

Which reminds me, there’s a small crowd tonight at “Rocco’s Ha Ha!” Rocco’s is probably the only comedy club for 500 miles around. Rocco was exiled from the Jersey mob for making a pass at “Tony Bags’s” wife. What was the pass? “You look really nice tonight Mrs. Bags.” You could hear the revolvers cocking. Rocco looked terrified. He said “I didn’t mean nothin’. It was a compliment. I was just being nice.” “Maybe too nice,” said Tony as he reached into his suit jacket. Rocco started begging. “Shaddup!” Said Tony, one inch from Rocco’s face. He pulled a wallet from his suit coat and counted out 20 $100.00 bills. “You’re goin’ to West Virginia to run the comedy club I recently “inherited” from Man Mountain Manny, the has-been wrestler who bet on himself too “Manny” times—get it? “Manny times, ha ha!” Tony gave Rocco the money and told him not to expect any more— he had a life sentence at to club—room and board, and that was it. Tony put me in charge of watching over Rocco, so I was headed to West Virginia too.

The club attracted the worst comics in the Western Hemisphere. I especially hated the guys with the dummies on their knees, cracking jokes about their wood, and each other’s mothers. And then, having the dummies sing “Strangers in the Night” while the ventriloquist drank a glass of water. I found out the ventriloquist had a tube covered with tape on the side of his head that he poured the water down. The tape was the color of his skin, so you couldn’t see the tube. I found this out when I hit a ventriloquist a couple of times in the face after his set and the tube fell off. He wouldn’t talk when I asked him how his drinking-singing thing worked. So, a whack on the face was justified and necessary.

The audience who showed up was terrible. The club held 60 people. We would average 5 men, fresh from the coal mines, still wearing their hard hats with the little spot lights on them. They got drunk and threw small lumps of coal at the acts they didn’t like, which was all of them. One night, I found Rocco in the storeroom with a gun to his head. If he shot himself, I’d take over & probably get a pay raise. I told him if he really had to do it, he should jump into an abandoned coal mine shaft. I heard from Tony the next day: “The rat has deceased.” That was code, but not very good code. Now, I was in charge of Rocco’s Ha ha! Out of respect, I didn’t change the name. I knew the club didn’t have to succeed—it was a money laundering operation. I should’ve realized that in the first place, but I didn’t. But, I was going to make some legit money anyway. I was going to do stand up comedy. It was easy, I would steal jokes off the internet— but not just any jokes. I would do jokes about coal!

My debut arrived. Our five miners were nearly passed out. I stepped onto the stage. I started:

A group of guys covered in coal dust walks into a bar. The barman says “Sorry, we don’t serve miners.”

I was going to try walking on hot burning coals but I got cold feet.

I’ve just seen a paleontologist sitting in a bar talking to a piece of coal. He must be carbon dating.

I applied for a job extracting coal but they said I didn’t have the right experience. Never mined.

Neil Diamond was originally called Neil Coal until the pressure got to him.

We couldn’t decide whether to have a coal or a gas fire and we ended up in a heated argument.

I keep a collection of coal for sedimental reasons.

I thought about a job mining coal but then I realised much of it would be boring.

The miners woke up (more less) and started laughing and applauding, except for the jokes with scientific terms in them. The next night, the club was full. I just kept telling the same jokes over and over, but nobody cared. This went on for about a month, and then, I got a call from Tony: “The laundry is drying.” That was code, but not very good code. I had to stop the comedy. I had been a miner success, but I had to get back to the other funny business.


Coal Jokes: https://punsandoneliners.com/randomness/coal-jokes/


Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Paenismus

Paenismus (pai-nis’-mus): Expressing joy for blessings obtained or an evil avoided.


Another shitty tip. I broke my ass serving these people a three-course meal. I almost broke my arm with my one-handed carry of the 18 pound turkey. There they were: six slurping, slopping, chomping, back-of-the-arm wiping hogs. There was turkey and cranberry sauce on the floor, squash smeared on the tablecloth, garnished with blobs of chestnut stuffing. On top of it all, there was pumpkin pie filling rolled into little round balls, skewered by silverware. The bill for this mess? $650.00. My tip? $5.00. I went over into a dark corner and nearly cried.

I was hurt. I was angry, but I still felt blessed—blessed to have a job, and blessed to be living in the city I love. New York was alive with wonder, interesting things to do, a diverse population, great places to eat, and more. It was crazy expensive though. I lived in what my landlord called a “one-half bedroom” apartment. It had a fold-out bed, but the room was so small, the bed wouldn’t go down all the way. So I slept at a 45-degree angle. Once I got into bed, I had to stay there or the bed would slam back into the wall, and I’d have to go through the whole pulling down thing again. I had a hot plate and a mini-fridge from my college dorm. I had one chair, and for entertainment I listened to NPR streaming on my cellphone. I kept all my clothes in a cardboard box. As soon as I turned the lights out, the roaches came out. There was no food in my apartment. Maybe they just wanted to socialize. Their skittering and wing clicking mating sounds were annoying.

As the year went by, I started to get sick of New York. The breaking point was the roach that walked across my face in the middle of the night. I slapped my face so hard and so many times to kill it, that I had a welt the next morning. My sister in New Jersey invited me to stay with her for as long as I liked. I took a bus from Port Authority, carrying my clothes on my lap in their cardboard box. I left my hot plate and fridge behind. My brother-in-law Jan gave me a job in one of his 25 discount liquor stores. The chain was called “Gin Canal” after his Dutch heritage. He specialized in gin, of course. In spring, he would add tulips to his inventory, in memory of his father. I worked the 11:00 pm to 2:00 am shift, which was, I soon found out, prime robbery time. I was robbed at least once a month. My brother-in-law didn’t care. He told me he had a “subsidy” that covered his losses. I think the subsidy came from the counterfeit federal tax stamps we glued onto unstamped bottles on Sunday afternoons.

Then, one night while I was getting robbed again, I recognized the bastard: it was $5.00 tip man from back in my waiter days in New York. For one second, I wondered what the hell he was doing here. Then, I jumped over the counter and hit him on the head with a gallon jug of “Carlo Rossi Paisano.” He was out cold and covered in wine. I took off all his clothes and dragged him out into the street. When I got back inside, I went through his pockets. There was an ATM card in his wallet with the PIN number written on the back! I locked up Gin Canal and headed for the ATM around the corner. I figured my tip should’ve been $120.00. That’s what I withdrew. Then, I gave his ATM card to a homeless man who looked like he needed some money. I pointed out the PIN number and told him Santa Claus had come to town.

When I got back to Gin Canal I put the $5.00 tipper’s clothes in the gutter and burned them, alongside him. As I was cleaning up the wine and broken glass on the liquor store’s floor, I thought about all the cliches connecting to sowing and reaping, and Karma and all that stuff, and felt like Destiny had shown me the beauty of revenge.


Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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Palilogia

Palilogia: Repetition of the same word, with none between, for vehemence. Synonym for epizeuxis.


“No, no, no, Johnny.” I heard that all the time. I was a 12-year-old prisoner of my mother’s never-ending prohibitions. The only time I heard her say “yes” was at night, and the bed was squeaking and Dad was saying “yes” too. At least they agreed on something when they were in bed at night. In the daytime all they did was argue, argue, argue. One of the best arguments had to do with John Kennedy running for President. My mother, like a lot of mothers, loved him—he was handsome and tanned and rich and he had a “cute” Massachusetts accent. To my father, Kennedy was as evil as they came—for the reasons my mother loved him, plus (and this was the big one) he was Catholic. Mt father was certain, if Kennedy was elected, he would take orders from the Pope and the United States would lose its sovereignty, and we would become a Vatican puppet-state.

Being a boy, I took my father’s side. When I stated my position on Kennedy to my friends, I was laughed off the porch stoop. So, I headed home to make up a plan so my friends would believe that there was a conspiracy. I watched Bishop Sheen every once-in-awhile on TV, but I knew he wouldn’t reveal the Papist plot to a Protestant boy from New Jersey. Plus, he was way too important to talk to me, a sinner doomed to Hell for being Presbyterian—a member of a rebel faction of the Christian faith, that along with other factions, had torn the true universal church to pieces.

I came up with a plan, I would disguise myself as a Catholic and trick one of the local priests into telling me the truth. So, I joined CYO—Catholic Youth Organization, where I would play basketball and look Catholic. Although it had “Catholic” in its name, in all of its literature, it used “Christian” to refer to itself. I thought this was clever—like Kennedy calling himself “Christian” instead of “Catholic.” I thought I was onto something—a conspiracy of stealth and concealment. My next move was to go to confession—where you sit in a wooden hutch and tell a concealed Priest the bad things you had done since your previous confession. I would be bold. I would not begin with the usual greeting. Instead I would ask directly: “Is Kennedy a puppet of the Pope?”

I anguished for two days. It was only three days to the election. It was getting cold outside. I told my father what I was up to. He gave me a dollar and told me to get some candy for myself. That meant he was on my side. I couldn’t talk to my mother, she would just say “No, no, no, Johnny” like I was assaulting her. I took a bath, combed my hair and set off for St. Vincent’s Catholic Church—a major landmark in our community. It’s tall steeple, numerous stained glass windows and statutes of saints were awe inspiring. The cathedral was full of squeaks and echoes as I headed for the confessional. I was nervous. I had met with Father Coaly once before to try and become an undercover Altar Boy. There were no openings, so he turned me down, but I was pretty sure he’d be in the confessional this afternoon.

I was 30 minutes early, so I just went straight into the confessional. I heard a voice say: “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” That wasn’t the usual routine, as far as I knew. So, I went ahead and asked “”Is Kennedy a puppet of the Pope?” There was laughter. “I’m sorry son, but I am John Kennedy. I came to this beautiful quiet place to practice my inaugural address should I be elected on Tuesday, even though it’ll be a few months until I will deliver it. I have one last campaign event in Morristown tomorrow, that’s why I’m here. I hope you can come. And no, I am not a puppet of the Pope or anybody else.”

I didn’t believe him. What was he doing in that confessional on the Priest’s side? I had heard there were microphones that recorded everything in order to blackmail congregants and add to the church’s massive wealth and give priests spending money too. I also thought that the confessionals have a direct line to Rome. On the other hand, Kennedy seemed pretty nice. I decided later that night that Kennedy wasn’t the Pope’s puppet. I told my dad and he locked me in the garage. About 1 hour later, I heard the lock get smashed. A man in a suit with what looked like a hearing aid in his ear said, “Hi. I’m Secret Service Agent Tommy Campbell. We were assigned to shadow you after your meeting with Mr. Kennedy, and also, we have been monitoring your father because of his association with a Northern Ireland Protestant terrorist organization. I am telling you this for your own safety. The FBI has taken your father into custody. I am sorry.” I wasn’t surprised. My father was a nut, especially when it came to politics. I said to the Agent: “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” He looked at me a smiled.


Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

Buy a print edition of The Daily Trope! The print edition is entitled The Book of Tropes and is available on Amazon for $9.99.