Looking for the Best Word? Tip #58


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A series of posts for word lovers. Offering help for writers and language learners, these posts examine different aspects of the world of words in the hope of stimulating your curiosity and enhancing your creativity. You need to know this post was scheduled prior to my annual break from all things digital, so any comments may not appear and/or be addressed until I return to the keyboard in a week or so.

This week’s words: Clip; Enallage; ISBN number; High and dry.


Clip: belongs to an odd category of words known as contronyms. A contronym is a word that is its own antonym; a word that has two opposing meanings!

Clip can mean “to bind together” or “to separate.” We clip sheets of paper together with paperclips. And we clip strands of hair together with hair clips. But we separate parts of a newspaper page by clipping an item from it.

Clip – Roget lists these headers: abate, subtract, connect, cut, fastening, make smaller, shorten, impulse, and hairdressing. Under the sub-heading ‘connect’ are a further 39 alternatives, including attach, pin together, contact, link, clip, span, and link up with. And, under the sub-heading ‘cut’ are another 70 alternatives, including hew, chop, cut into, trim, clip, snip, prune, bite, and score.

Let’s look at usage for Clip:

‘After dropping the loose leaves of his novel, scattering them randomly, Andrew decided to clip them together with a paperclip for each chapter.’

‘Joanne’s long tresses were so often windblown, she had to clip the strands together to keep them out of her eyes.’

‘Maureen unfolded the magazine and spread it out flat so she could select the pieces she would clip out for her scrapbook.’

‘Tony tried to hold the poodle still so he could clip its coat to match the requirements of its fussy owner.’

Figure of speech:

Enallage is a figure of speech in which one grammatical form is replaced by another, so that a deliberate grammatical mistake is introduced.

As an enallage is a grammatical mistake, it rarely works well when taken out of context or made up spontaneously. So, on this occasion, I’ll present an example from T. S. Eliot as presented in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock: ‘Let us go then, you and I’. And for those who don’t know, the correct form would be; ‘Let us go then, you and me.’ You would never write (or say, I hope!) ‘Let I go then…’, would you?


Redundancies are words serving no semantic purpose. In speech, they act as spacers, giving the speaker time to think. But in writing, except when representing natural conversation, they impede the reader’s progress.

This week’s example: ‘ISBN number’. Since the abbreviation stands for ‘International Standard Book Number’, the use of ‘number in conjunction with ISBN is unnecessary.

Cliché; a cliché is a stereotyped or hackneyed expression; a phrase, opinion or other element of language that’s been so overused it no longer holds any power. However, clichés usually come into being as the result of their original effective ability to describe a situation or quality. Their use should be sparing and appropriate; in dialogue, they’re acceptable, providing the speaking character would use such expressions.

High and dry: an expression that describes a situation in which a person, or object, is left either figuratively or actually stranded with little hope of escape.

‘The tsunami had washed the octopus so far inland that it was left high and dry.’ Better, perhaps; ‘The octopus had been washed so far inland by the tsunami that it was impossible for it to return to the sea.’

‘Jake’s overenthusiastic introduction of Norma as a fluent speaker of Chinese left her high and dry before the expectant audience.’

Maybe better expressed; ‘Jake introduced Norma to the audience as a fluent speaker of Chinese, which left her in a quandary as she spoke only a few words of the language.’

Language learners might find this link useful for pronunciation queries, and you’ll reach a great group page on Facebook if you click this link.

I was recently invited to contribute a monthly column to an online magazine, Pandora’s Box Gazette. My first post appeared last month. I’m dealing with the use of words there, so if you’d like to take a look, click this link.

I welcome observations and suggestions here. Please use the comments section below for your ideas and thoughts.

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