While traveling recently, I saw a woman toting a sewing machine as her carry-on luggage. No one stopped her.
What is the matter with the Transportation Security Administration? Dont they realize the dangers inherent in sewing machines? Consider the terminology.
A needle is a small, slender, pointed implement used for sewing or surgical suturing. Have you never punctured yourself while attempting to attach a button or stitch a hem? I inevitably bleed on my blouse or skirt. Its no wonder the verb needle also means to goad or provoke. Im often provoked when attempting to sew.
This line of thought led me to consider the analogies used in business and to wonder for a moment why sewing analogies dont show up as often as sports analogies do. I assume it is because most business strategists until recently were male, and most sports enthusiasts were also male.
Lets figure out our game plan so well be in the catbird seat. Ive wondered where the catbird seat is and where the phrase came from. It apparently was used in the South to mean an advantageous position, up where the group of birds that includes the mockingbird chooses to sit to sing tunes. The term was popularized in a story by James Thurber, who cited its frequent use by sports commentator Red Barber.
When things are going well, the company is batting 1,000, perhaps with the assistance of a cleanup hitter.
Although these terms are easily understood by most Americans, even those who arent fond of sports, the full-court press utilized by basketball teams and business strategists may be more obscure. Any of these could be misconstrued by those not familiar with the sport.
Some years ago, former Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice, urging patience by critics of a plan to shut down North Koreas nuclear program, assured them we were in only the first quarter, with a lot of time left on the clock.
Rices language was familiar to others on the Bush White House team but less so to the Asians she was addressing. But thats OK. Rice took one for the team and kept her eye on the ball. A good thing, else her gaffe might have become a political football for Democrats to kick around.
Lets consider the other endeavors and hobbies that we employ to add spice to our words. Want to postpone making a decision? Put it on the back burner. Let your ideas simmer for a while. But dont stew about the problem. And by all means, dont cook the books. However, if the issue rises to the top of the list, consider your opportunity to curry favor with your manager by putting some heat under it.
Lets end where we began, with sewing. Two basic stitches in knitting are the knit stitch and the purl stitch. Is it possible the word purl is related to purloin? Purloin, meaning steal or misappropriate, has its origins in Middle English and means to put away or set aside. Id love to hear from knitters whether theres any sense in my thinking. One website referred to the purl as the opposite of a knit stitch. The purl stitch is yin, the dark, shady hillside, to the knit stitchs yang, the bright, flat open space.
Or am I merely missing a stitch?
KATHY McINTOSH: Boise author, speaker and freelance editor. Owner of A Well-Placed Word.. firstname.lastname@example.org