Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.

On October 2, 1916, a century minus a day ago, Dr. Harry Wegeforth and his brother Paul met with three local colleagues — Dr. Fred Baker, Dr. Joseph Thompson and naturalist Frank Stephens — and together they formed the Zoological Society of San Diego. Honoring these far-seeing, committed, altruistic men, I exhibit a caravan of animal metaphors. This may look like a column I shared three weeks ago, but it isn’t: All the animal expressions herein are new.

Many children’s magazines feature picture puzzles in which the young readers are asked to identify a number of hidden animals. In a cloud may lurk a cow, in the leaves of a tree may be concealed a fish and on the side of a house may be soaring an eagle. The English language is like those children’s pictures. Take a gander at what follows, and you will discover a menagerie of creatures from the animal world concealed in the narrative. (Did you catch one of them in the last sentence?)

Let’s face it. It’s a dog-eat-dog world we live in. But doggone it, without beating a dead horse, I do not wish to duck or leapfrog over this subject. It’s time to fish or cut bait, to take the bull by the horns, kill two birds with one stone and, before everything goes to the dogs and we’ve got a tiger by the tail, to give you a bird’s-eye view of the animals hiding in our language.

Speaking of beastly characters, watch out for the parasites, bloodsuckers, sponges, and leeches who worm their way into your consciousness and make you their scapegoats; the rat finks and stool pigeons who ferret out your deepest secrets and then squeal on you, let the cat out of the bag and fly the coop without so much as a “Tough turkey. See you later, alligator”; the snakes-in-the-grass who come out of the woodwork, open a can of worms and then, before you smell a rat, toss you a red herring; the serpentine quacks who make you their gullible guinea pig and cat’s paw; the lowdown curs and dirty dogs who sling the bull and send you on a wild goose chase barking up the wrong tree, the card sharks who hawk their fishy games, monkey with your nest egg, put the sting on you and then fleece you; the vultures who hang like albatrosses around your neck, who live high on the hog, who feather their own nests and then — the straw that breaks the camel’s back — crow about it looking like the cat that swallowed the canary; the black sheep who play cat and mouse and then cook your goose and make a monkey out of you with their shaggy dog stories before they hightail it out of there; and the lousy varmints, polecats, skunks and eels who sell you a white elephant or a pig in a poke and, when the worm turns and you discover the fly in the ointment, weasel their way out of the deal.

It’s a real jungle out there, just one unbridled rat race; in fact, it’s for the birds.

But let’s talk turkey and horse sense. Don’t we go a tad ape and hog wild over the bright eyed and bushy tailed eager beavers who always go whole hog to hit the bull’s-eye; the eagle eyed tigers who are always loaded for bear; and the ducky, loosey-goosey rare birds who are wise as owls and happy as larks and clams? Lucky dogs like these are the cat’s pajamas and the cat’s meow, worthy of being lionized. From the time they’re knee-high to a grasshopper, they’re in the catbird seat and the world is their oyster.

So before you buzz off, I hope you’ll agree that this exhibit of animal metaphors has been no hogwash, no humbug. I really give a hoot about the animals hiding in our English language, so, for my swan song, I want you to know that, straight from the horse’s mouth, this has been no dog and pony show and no cock and bull story.


Next Saturday, October 8, 9 am-4 pm, Richard Lederer will be appearing at the Union-Tribune Successful Aging Expo at Town & Country in Mission Valley. At 9:15 am, he’ll be offering a fun quiz. Rich would love to meet you there.       

On Monday evening, October 10, starting at 7:30 pm, Richard Lederer will emcee the 15th Annual Celebrity Sonnets at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. Local celebrities, actors, musicians and dancers will perform their choices of the Bard’s sonnets. Info at www.sandiegoshakespearesociety.org.