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Sport 25: Spring 2000

The word as a tool

page 16

The word as a tool

Language is as full of tools as the inside of a hardware store.
Nouns are everything you can make something out of, four-by-twos, six-by-twos, three-by-one-and-a-halves, weatherboards, ceiling battens, PVC, Gib-board, aluminium windows, bricks, doors, tiles, carpet, concrete reinforcing rods and all types of spouting.
Articles are builders' pencils, used for making marks, drawing arrows, stirring tea or placing behind an ear when you're working.
It is no coincidence that commas come in the shape of chisels perfect for breaking up that overlong sentence with too many words which no one can stop because one thought leads into another and then into another again until you have forgotten how it all started anyway and now it won't fit into the back of the ute.
Verbs are Eastwing hammers, 20-ounce, full metal shaft, comfortable plastic composite handles with a non-slip grip and claw head. Ideal for putting some whack into a sentence. They come in black and blue and have a good feel hung from a leather pouch firm against your thigh.
Rhyme is the ratchet on a socket, two steps forward and one step back. Use it to draw words as tight as wire against their fenceposts.
page 17 Ellipses are screwdriver sets—Philips, slotheads, Allen keys in a full range of sizes. They can be used to increase the torque inside a poem.
Rhythm is a tape measure, one of those ones that rolls up into a case, or a ruler that folds out and then folds out again so you can lay it down beside a sentence and mark off the metres.
Conjunctions are all screws (roundheads, countersunk, self-tappers), nails (flatheads, jolts, galvanised and bright), clouts, staples, PVA glue or Polyfilla and whatever else you use to cover up the gaps between words.
Alliteration / Consonance / Assonance are grades of sandpaper—for obtaining that extra-smooth finish. The trick is to make everyone think you haven't used them.
Similes and Metaphors are rolled-up sets of plans carried underneath your armpit or in the back seat of the truck that someone else has spilt their coffee on. A place where what you are putting together has already been put together, or if that doesn't make sense, it's what you meant when you always said after taking the nail off your thumb with a blunt hammer that the mongrel bled like a stuck pig.

page 18

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?