Horismus (hor-is’-mus): Providing a clear, brief definition, especially by explaining differences between associated terms.

“How now brown cow.” I think that’s s a line from a Steely Dan song, something about admonishing somebody to leave after drinking their big brown cow. It’s not a direct quote, but in the echoing halls of intertextuality two words are enough, as is the potential for allusion captured by the same two words. There aren’t very many songs including cows— “Farmer in the Dell” leaps out. There are the obscure “Mooo” and “Cows With Guns,” and “Out on the Western Plain” and a dozen or so more. But there’s more to cows than female grass-eating milk-making bovines. Of course, they’re not bulls or calves. “Cow” can be used to refer to any large female mammal. There are elephant cows, moose cows, and whale cows. But it gets worse—an obese middle-aged woman can be called a cow. I don’t like this. My wife is obese and middle-aged. If I called her a cow she would mooove out—somewhere on the other side of the fence where the grass is greener and she can graze on Hershey Bars 24/7 if she wants to. She was so svelte when we first met. Giving birth to six children took a toll on her body. Along with her poor eating habits, now she tips the scales at 247 lbs. I learned awhile back not to say anything about her weight. So, I’ve learned to love her for what she is, a kind, generous, loving cow.

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

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