Friday, December 31, 2010

Word Rabies

“I knew foxes are quite often rabid, so I knew he was up to no good.”

This is a direct quote.

It is a direct quote from a North Carolina woman who woke up to find a rabid fox attacking her foot. She was in bed, her own—sleeping, at night, inside her house. The house had walls, windows, doors, and a roof. It was not a tree house or mud hut. She was not lost in the black forest. 

This is a direct quote, which I believe to be a shining example of an understatement.

“Up to no good.” Are you kidding? The fox was gnawing on her foot. It had managed to tunnel, smash, jimmy, or squeeze its way into this woman’s home, climb onto her bed, locate her vulnerable naked foot flesh, and zero in on its toe target—all why being infected with a hideous, fatal disease. How? Why? What the **hell?

“Up to no good.”  You mean the way Darth Vader was “up to no good?”

I love words, and as a writer, I am constantly fascinated with styles and methods of word usage via various forms of communication. How much is too much? How much is not enough? And how much is just plain kooky talk? Here’s a look at various forms of communication as it relates to rabid fox attacks, an important topic for the New Year, certainly.

An understatement is (according to the big book of word meanings) an intentional lack of emphasis in expression. For example:  I knew foxes are quite often rabid, so I knew he was up to no good. Duh!


That fox was like having a pack of teething toddlers chewing their way through my toe bits. This statement being an example of hyperbole, which is an exaggeration or extravagant statement, which differs from an exaggeration—somehow, but I’m still a little shaky on exactly how it differs.

The word exaggerate comes from a Latin word meaning to “pile up” or “heap.”  For example: There was a dumpster full of foxes heaped up in my bed—draining blood out of my body through my foot.

A question is an expression of inquiry that invites or calls for a reply. Is that a rabid fox attacking my foot? Honey, where’s the club?

An exclamation is an abrupt, forceful utterance; an outcry. Holy . . . mother . . . puss bucket! Smack it again! Harder!

The popular exclamation is often followed by or capped off with a declaration (An unsworn statement of facts that is admissible as evidence.) I found it, the clause in the insurance policy that covers rabid fox attacks—inside the house, under a king sized quilt. You’re covered.

Since the time this incident was first reported, I’ve taken to sleeping in my rubber garden boots and holding a crowbar in my clenched fist.

 So far, I’ve managed to avoid any ugly incidents where my husband staggers home some midnight hour from the airport, only to be welcomed with a crowbar up ‘side the head.

Whereupon I would have to declare, “But Officer, I thought my husband was a rabid fox up to no good.”

Linda (Hyperbolism Forever) Zern

** Please note: That although there are almost no situations in which I will make use of an expletive in my writing, there are a very few—one being rabid fox attacks or, possibly, pinworm infestations.   

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