Paronomasia, Op. 5
Paronomasia, Op. 5
According to Ovid, the son of a river god found himself transformed into a flower, but the boy’s name rippled downstream from the headwaters of history. If narcissism smacks of drunk and disorderly conceit nowadays, little reflection is needed to interpret narcissistic as the slurred sound bite of a boozer babbling during booking.
Lots of words have minds of their own and want only a smidgeon of latitude to flaunt alternative applications. It’s hardly duplicity when entities flee convention to explore foreign terrain. As in: What ails him today? Answer: Indonesia.
Palliatives? A Jamaican run, Singapore fling, Irish jig, perfect Manhattan, plaster of Paris.
With minimal encouragement, numbers play loose with imagination as well. If four equals half of eight no matter what, why does fourteen manifest only half the maturity of eighteen? Stranger things happen when digits inflate. Two billion or three: what’s the difference?
When words develop egos derived from private lives, undercurrents emerge. Thus, hetero thinks itself a mighty-fine combining form, whereas gay has become flighty by reputation owing to accusations of looking for love in all the wrong places. Buffoon grins through its tears. Zest stood head and shoulders above zit long before those old soap commercials on the boobtube.
Boobtube, of course, is not a valid combo. It’s a state of mind implied when words link up to flaunt their stuff at a party.
Stuff? Unlike “stuff”—which is anything it wants to be—there is no term at all for the day after tomorrow or dreams of flying with falcons or operating a vehicle with unresponsive brakes. What about driving but remembering zip between points A and B? Roadlaps? For that stuffed toy hanging from a rear-view mirror (carpet?) or a song in the head that won’t quit (tunestick?). For irksome voids in language, why not employ the lexicon at hand? Suggested entries from the Book of Groans:
algebra: shy mermaid’s form-fitting top
amusing: comic’s mindset when off athinking
bamboos: wicked good moonshine
before: what she be after she be three
benign: five years after before
bifurcate: K. Middleton’s personal shopper
buccaneer: cheapest tickets at a shindig
cantankerous: itinerant people
claptrap: disagreeable brothel
contour: one-way bus ride to the pen
detach: what peasants use on de roof
dispose: Brittany’s barfy pic of Tiffany on Facebook
discuss: Tiffany’s angry oath for being dissed
disrobe: desirable alternative to dat robe
faucet: familiar posture at Middle East peace talks
gaggle: to accidently inhale while gargling
incarceration: stabbed in a Honda
incinerator: priest keeping score of a female’s confession
locomotive: grabbing up swampland to make a fortune
malarkey: sings better than ma ducky
mango: the act of strangling a husband
mushroom: stuffy igloo
pomegranate: every rock climber’s horror
punctuation: gang member’s induction ceremony
sink: snot a pencil
stonehenged: undone by bitchin’ weed
thorny: lisper’s excuse for a cane
truncate: what the blasted termites did to my maple
tuna: Boston Symphony’s principal oboist
vine: vaat every vino vonts
yucca: outburst if you touch one and get a pricka
What happens if you drop a couple of candidates into a sentence? They paid a buccaneer just in time to hear the tuna. Or how about three? After her contour and swearing off sugar, she finally admitted mango to the incinerator. Four? Five? Joyce Carol Oates suggests fiction should make readers squirm, but it is possible to carry things too far.
Cool has lost the fashion edge just as moist vies for top dog in appeal. Pin is fast; pan is slow; pun takes the middle ground. Silk is faster than wool. If pin were drag-racing wool, you could wager a paycheck on the outcome.
Words are packaged with a quantum of smarts. Banal is sophisticated, but deep is relatively shallow even when its referent is not. Prescription meds are consistently wiser than street drugs. Proof? Perfluoroalkylpolyether versus poppers: who wins the spelling bee? Strattera versus smack: who gets the Nobel Prize?
Beyond wit and wisdom, words elicit high interest or low that rubs off.
Sharp words trump ignorant, try it and see.
Drop “plinth” at a party. Grunt “shucks” on the job.
Then wait for the fallout all
Argon seems sweet enough, thallium savory.
Serve some on crackers to guests
Hot words or tepid, the long and short is that words always have meaning, often more than one. With a possible exception. Some people don’t think life has meaning. Your life: no meaning? Use it in a sentence. Put the sentence in a poem, the poem in a book crammed with words having minds of their own. Voila! Just from rubbing shoulders, meaning. If that approach doesn’t cure your Indonesia, take your carpet for a ride and get some good vine, then swing by and listen to malarkey ’n detach. Hi five, Ms. Oates!
About the author:
Robert D. Kirvel has a Ph.D. in neuropsychology. He had authored numerous publications in peer-reviewed journals and anthologies, received awards of excellence from the Society for Technical Communications, and has been recognized by the Executive Office of the President of the United States for helping to write a requested guidance document. He now writes literary fiction and has published recent stories in American Athenaeum, Columbia College Literary Review, The Blotter, and The Milo Review.