“Well,” Bruce said, “if Jack was going to be the devil’s advocate, I decided to give him a taste of his own medicine. But I didn’t want to stir up a hornet’s nest, so I got cold feet, and then I ended up in hot water.”
It was an open house Zoom meeting for the Order of Logogustation, and Bruce, a prospective member and evident raconteur, was holding forth on some misadventure. Anthony, another prospective member, cut in. “I’m sorry, I really do prefer to hold to literal usages. Metaphors, especially overused ones, tire me. You mean to say that if he was going to take a contrary position for the sake of argument, you were going to do the same, but you were afraid of causing trouble, so you changed your mind, and then you found yourself in conflict anyway.”
You’re not going to like it here, I thought. Also, half the words you just used came from metaphors. Including metaphor.
Jess piped up: “Oh, you’re an advocate of kyriolexy!”
“Yes, that’s right!” Anthony said. “I’m so glad someone knows the term for the use of literal expressions.”
I prefer more curious lexis, myself – you may have noticed many cuter curios in my lexicon – but kyriolexy is perfectly snappy word, from Greek κύριος ‘authoritative, proper’ (also used to mean ‘lord, master’ as in kyriarchy, and you may know Kyrie eleison, ‘Lord have mercy’) and -λεξια ‘speaking’. And yes, it means ‘using words literally’ or ‘using literal expressions’.
“Oh, but I did mean it literally,” Bruce said. “Jack is a lawyer, and he had decided to take a position as the legal counsel for the Church of Satan. But he’s also an… amateur pharmacologist, and I thought perhaps I could help him reconsider by sharing some of the finer drugs he had sold me. But when I got to his house, there was a hornet’s nest right at his front door, so I went around the back to avoid disturbing it. The problem was that I was wearing sandals and it wasn’t very warm, and his lawn was wet. So when I got around back I dunked my feet in his hot tub.”
“I—” Anthony said.
“Are you pulling his leg?” Jess said.
“No!” Bruce said. “We’re not even in the same room.”
“So,” Arlene said, “what happened then?”
“Well, someone let the cat out of the bag,” Bruce said.
“Someone alerted him to your presence,” Anthony said.
“He has a pet bobcat,” Bruce said, “and it likes to sleep in a burlap sack. But someone in the house woke it up and it came out.”
“Good grief,” Arlene said.
“Grief is seldom good,” Anthony said.
“It turned into a wild goose chase,” Bruce said. “I tried to be on the ball, but Jack had to let me off the hook.”
“It became a wild cat chase, I think you mean,” Anthony said, “and you attempted to keep up with it, but Jack had to relieve you.”
“Naw, man,” Bruce said. “There was a wild goose out by the pool, and that’s what the bobcat was going after. I tried to get out of the way by standing on a large exercise ball, but I fell backwards and my shirt caught on a coathook. Jack had to help me off it.”
Arlene and Jess were both dissolved in laughter. (Not literally dissolved.)
“Why was there a goose by the pool?” I said.
“I may have brought it,” Bruce said.
“You’re not sure,” Anthony said.
“I may have had a taste of my own medicine before arriving, so to speak,” Bruce said.
“So…” Arlene said, as best she could, “how did it all end up?”
“Oh, my goose was cooked,” Bruce said.
“Literally, I suppose?” Anthony said, wearily.
“Yes, stuffed and roasted,” Bruce said.
“I guess you bit off more than you could chew,” Jess said, giggling madly.
“Yes!” Bruce said. “How did you know? The goose was very good, but I gobbled it a bit too hungrily and Jack had to do the Heimlich maneuver on me.”
“That was really the icing on the cake!” I said.
Bruce looked at me (well, as best he could on a Zoom call) for a moment. “No, it was the goose. We didn’t have cake.”
“And were things been OK between you and Jack after that?” Arlene said.
“Well…” Bruce said. “He’s given me the cold shoulder.”
“Oh, leftover goose?” Arlene said.
“Nah! Geese don’t have shoulders. I just mean he hasn’t wanted to talk to me. I guess I might have opened up a can of worms.”
We all just looked at each other and no one said anything for a few moments. Finally Jess broke the silence. “So… kyriolexy. Nice word.” We all agreed that it had a certain something.