Angling for the perfect verb
James J. Kilpatrick begins his language column this week with a quote to make headline writers envious:
"Time had no special significance for a certain juvenile and incorrigible fisher of words who thought nothing of fishing for two weeks to catch a stanza, or even a line, that he would not throw back into a squirming sea of language where there was every word but the one he wanted.It's fun to imagine in a copy-editing blog the headlines we could create had we two weeks to fish. But most of the time we are lucky to get two minutes.
"There were strange and iridescent and impossible words that would seize the bait and swallow the hook and all but drag the excited angler in after them, but like that famous catch of Hiawatha's, they were generally not the fish he wanted. He wanted fish that were smooth and shining and subtle, and very much alive, and not too strange, and presently, after long patience and many rejections, they began to bite."