This week’s words:Quiver, Quick, Quarrel, Quality.
I expect we all know that a quiver is a case to hold arrows, as per Robin Hood, or some Native American peoples. But the word has other meanings that are more in line with the idea of onomatopoeia: a quivering motion or sound, shake, tremble, vibrate with a slight rapid movement.
We can talk of a person speaking with a quiver in their voice, someone quivering with fear, excitement or anger, a leaf quivering in the breeze, and the quivering sound of a musical instrument played in the vibrato style. All these examples employ onomatopoeia as a literary style and can be used effectively in prose and poetry as such.
Simile: Quick as lightning
I’ve not always agreed with the idea of lightning being ‘quick’. It seems to me that ‘brief’ might be more descriptive of lightning, i.e. lasting for a short period. Although, as anyone who’s witnessed a tropical storm will know, lightning can sometimes last for a relatively lengthy moment. I suspect the connection with lightning stems from the other simile ‘quick as a flash’, as much lightning does occur as flashes.
There’s another simile for ‘quick’; quick as a wink: but, again, a wink isn’t consistently quick. Some lotharios will prolong their winks in order to exaggerate their suggestive expressions.
And ‘quick as silver’ probably comes from the old name for mercury, ‘quicksilver’, which, of course, isn’t quick other than when compared to the generally static mode characteristic of most metals, which, even when melted to liquid form, tend to move very slowly. (I’m aware there are exceptions to this, but the general opinion is that metals are commonly encountered in their solid state.)
Is anything else more suited to the idea of being ‘quick’? We talk of ‘fast as a bullet’, but if we substitute ‘quick’ for ‘fast’ the expression somehow doesn’t quite sit right. ‘Quick as snapped fingers’, ‘quick as a politician’s promise’, as in ‘His pledge to stop smoking vanished as quick as a politician’s promise when he was offered a free fag.’ Let’s face it, politician’s promises, made during election campaigns, generally vanish as soon as they’re in office! So, any other ideas for this one?
Collective Nouns: Quarrel of sparrows
Are sparrows particularly quarrelsome? They squabble briefly for food in the winter, sometimes squabble over a prospective mate, but there are more quarrelsome birds around. But I do like the idea of ‘quarrel’ as a collective noun. We could have a quarrel of clerics, since those from different sects invariably disagree with one another. Perhaps a quarrel of philosophers is apposite, since they rarely agree on anything. I’m sure you can come up with other examples.
Delusional Dictionary: Quality: a description of something of unproven worth as described by a salesman; a person of a social class defined as superior by its own members; a word in much need of a modifier to determine whether the suggested character of the object is high or low.
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