March 28, 2009
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Perils of Fine Writing

A woman writes to Cary Tennis. A dear friend has broken her expensive cell phone. How is she to protect her phone without losing the friend?

The next time she says, May I borrow your phone? tell her, "The correct phrase is this: 'May I borrow your expensive, delicate, $435 swivel phone, which must be opened carefully with a deft swiveling motion?'"

Emphasize "deft swiveling motion."

Mime a deft swiveling motion. Place your palms together flat and twist them back and forth to simulate deft swiveling motion. Ask her to join you in this. Swivel your palms together at the same time, chanting "deft swiveling motion, deft swiveling motion."

Consider the meaning of "deft swiveling motion." Consider the double helix; consider the deft swivel move of the offensive tackle heading for the flat, conserving energy in his large frame, appearing "quick for his size."

This is wonderful. But...

An offensive tackle who deftly heads for the flat is, as I recall, an ineligible receiver downfield.  Yellow flags, five yard penalty. Not deft. Cary means the guy standing right next to the offensive tackle, who is known as the tight end.