How to shoot at someone who outdrew you

fri26oct2007—43w299d81%— 01h51m00s—0utc

I’m making a list of fascinating things about the English language. As, say, my interviewer at frog design can attest, I overflow with opinionated passion but suck at showcasing. I overtell and undershow. I’m constantly nagging people with my fawning for English, for its beauty, expressiveness, and flexibility, but when pressed to put my love into reasons I’m as vague and mushy as a Christian.

Faith: Lisa, I’m Faith Crowley, Patriotism Editor of Reading Digest.
Homer: Oh, I love your magazine. My favourite section is How to increase your word power. That thing is really, really… good.

The Simpsons, Episode: Das Boot, the lord of the flies / bill gates parody (via Subtly Simpsons)

So I do lists. And this particular one is fairly advanced, with so many items and examples that there’s a multi-leveled hierarchy already. One of its headings is titled “informal, unique, almost idiomatic affixes” — y’know, stuff like she- (“the ”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Addison_Forbes_Montgomery">she-Shepherd“), out- ”p">(“innovators out-fail the competition”), over- (“don’t overdo it”), -away (“assume away”), -friendly (“gay-friendly”), -up (“trade up”), and so on. I find most of them not only unique to English but uniquely expressive.

One particularly good example is in the phrase in the title. The full context comes from a verse from Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah (you can listen to it here, covered by Rufus Wainwright):

..all I ever learned from love
was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you

The lyrics manage to portray tragic, flawed love in two lines and it all hinges on that magic “outdrew” verb.

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