Tag archives: word play

Have a Heart
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   October 4, 2022

Contrary to what someone might think, a cardiologist does not collect cards – not even such collectibles as those my little Company produces. The word comes from the Greek kardia, meaning “heart,” which has given us such spin-offs as “cordial,” and the French and Spanish “Coeur,” and “Corazón.” Where I live, there is a local […]

Not What You Think
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   September 13, 2022

“Fool me once, – shame on you –Fool me twice,Shame on me.” It may surprise you to realize in how many ways our lives, literature, and entire culture are based on misleading each other and our fellow creatures. To start with, there’s the matter of clothing, and all kinds of other things we put on […]

Habits: MY WORST HABIT – AND HOW I GOT RID OF IT: (Warning: some readers may consider this disgusting.)
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   August 2, 2022

I used to pull or bite bits of skin from certain areas of the backs of my hands. Sometimes I would then just flick them away, but often I would chew and actually eat them. Those abused hand areas naturally became tough and red and ugly, and sometimes people would comment on this. My mother, […]

Take It All Off
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   June 28, 2022

One of the best known, not to say notorious, celebrities of the 1920s and ‘30s was a buxom blonde actress and writer named Mae West. One of her best-known lines came in the 1933 film, I’m No Angel, in which, in a starring role, she says to her maid, “Beulah, peel me a grape,” which […]

To Wit to Woo
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   June 14, 2022

In the history of courtship, no words have resonated more profoundly than two lines by that great poet, Ogden Nash: Candy is dandy,But liquor is quicker. However, we must admit that, over the ages, many other techniques of wooing have been developed. For example, there are music and song, as celebrated by that other immortal […]

Has it Got Legs?
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   May 31, 2022

Here is a riddle for you: What goes ninety-nine CLOP, ninety-nine CLOP, ninety-nine CLOP…? Answer: A centipede with a wooden leg. I don’t want to go into all the biological reasons concerning the numerous varieties of centipedes, showing that, even apart from the wooden leg, this story can’t be true. What I do want to […]

That’s Entertainment
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   May 3, 2022

Believe it or not, the original meaning of “to entertain” was “to hold together.” But, when you come to think of it, that isn’t so far from what it still means today. People are held together by watching the same show, enjoying the same songs or jokes, admiring the same performers, feeling the same emotions […]

Something’s Got to Give
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   April 19, 2022

Although it has now become a somewhat ritualized procedure, particularly associated with Christmas and birthdays, the practice of gift-giving has a long and colorful history in our culture. According to a leading authority (St. Paul, quoting Jesus), “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Far be it from me to question anybody’s holy […]

Taking Aim
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   March 29, 2022

Archery began with the discovery that a propelled arrow could travel farther than a thrown spear – but has subsequently gone in many strange directions. In late Victorian England, there were two outstanding schools for women, which each had an eminent headmistress. At the North London Collegiate School for Ladies, there was Frances Mary Buss; […]

Come to Your Senses
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   March 22, 2022

You have probably heard the story about “The Princess and the Pea,” which was made famous in our culture by Hans Christian Andersen (but is, like most fairy tales, traceable far back to other times and places). The essence of the tale is that a girl who has claimed to be a Princess is subjected […]

Gorilla My Dreams
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   March 8, 2022

On November 25, 1864, in a famous speech at Oxford University, the British statesman Benjamin Disraeli addressed himself to a matter which had been convulsing intellectual society since the 1859 publication of Charles Darwin’s book, On the Origin of Species. As Disraeli put it: “The question is this – is man an ape or an […]

Fruitful Thoughts
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   October 19, 2021

Several years ago, when I was on icy, unfamiliar ground (if you must know, it happened in Upstate New York, in the hills, near a resort called Mohonk, where I’d just given a speech about my work) I slipped and fell, breaking my right shoulder. One result was that, although I recovered pretty well, I’m […]

Feeling Cornered
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   August 12, 2021

Little Jack Horner sat in the corner,Eating a Christmas pie;He put in his thumb,And pulled out a plum,And said, “What a good boy am I!” Your childhood probably included this “nursery rhyme.” But it provokes many questions: If Jack Horner really was a “good boy,” why was he sitting in a corner, which even today […]

Of Humans and Their Obsession with Heads
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   July 8, 2021

The practice of making an “either/or” type of decision by flipping a coin has a surprisingly long history. The Romans had coins with a ship on one side and the emperor’s head on the other, so their equivalent of “heads or tails” was “ship or head” – in Latin, “navia aut caput.”  It has always […]

Stick With Me
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   June 3, 2021

One of the expressions I remember from childhood playground banter would arise when somebody said something nasty to you, and you wanted to get back at them, with something equally derogatory. So, you would say: “I’m rubber, and you’re glue –Everything you saySticks back to you!” Or, if you wanted to be even more vicious, […]

Vital Signs
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   May 20, 2021

Many of the signs we see throughout our lives are telling us not to do certain things (whether we might want to do them or not). One of the most common says, “NO TRESPASSING” – although this might confuse some people, especially children, who are taught (as I was in public school in Toronto) to […]

Perish Prolixity
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   March 25, 2021

When I was first privileged to write this column, I was set a 750-word limit. I knew that I could go a few words over or under, and nobody would care. But I decided to make a game out of turning in exactly 750 words each time. What made this relatively do-able was that, unlike […]

Smile!
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   March 18, 2021

In our culture, the act of smiling has not always had a very positive image. Among great paintings, I can think of only one that would qualify. It’s called “The Laughing Cavalier” by Frans Hals (1624), but he is only smiling, not laughing. By the time of World War I, however, it was a different […]

Labels
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   March 4, 2021

For many years, you couldn’t buy certain items, such as mattresses, in the U.S.A., unless they contained a federally required fabric label, or “tag.” I’m not sure exactly what information these labels provided, but what I do remember is that they also contained a very severe warning against removing them. Something like “DO NOT REMOVE, […]

Rejection
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   February 25, 2021

Being rejected is a basic human experience, for which most of us need to be better trained than we probably are.  If you ask Mr. Google about rejections, he’ll give you many lists of famous and successful people who failed over and over again, but went on, and, through sheer persistence, became the stars and […]