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May 10, 2019

I like words. I mean, I really like words. A lot. Which is a good thing, since for a significant portion of my life I have made my living, in whole or in part and in different ways, with words. I grew up in a family in which words were important. My parents were, among others things, employed in the newspaper and printing industry for years; my dad as a linotype operator/machinist, then pressman and my mom as a proofreader. Beyond that, my dad was, for most of his adult life, what those in the arguably more liturgical sects would call a “lay” preacher.

All that “words stuff” sort of rubbed off, I guess. As a kid, I didn’t talk like anyone I knew. I was the weird kid, the nerd, the geek, who talked like an adult. Since we moved almost once a year, occasionally across town, once or twice across the state, but usually part or all the way across the country, I was also the new, weird kid who “talked funny.” I guess it helped, maybe, that I was also an introvert and that I fought dirtier than anyone I’ve ever met.

Anyway, have you ever encountered that word? You know, the one you like and which you can define, but find it difficult to demonstrate in a way that really helps you feel the meaning of the word? Behold the word. Juxtapose.

Merriam-Webster defines it this way: “to place (different things) side by side (as to compare them or contrast them or to create an interesting effect).”

Okay. Great. Now I know what it means, but the definition doesn’t give the feeling of the word anymore than it did when I read the denotative meaning the first time, decades ago. How to illustrate it? Perhaps, we could do this:

Let’s take a British rock band. Give them a flamboyantly gay (and absurdly talented) lead singer from Zanzibar. Have them record a song that introduces the suggestion of the sexual abuse of a boy by a woman, leading to an interest in women of questionable morals. Make sure the song is set to a 1970’s American country beat, in a country key and with country harmony. Something like this:


And that is what it means to juxtapose.

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