When you describe something, it helps to compare or contrast it with something your readers or listeners will understand. James Herriot knew that, and he did it to great effect in his third book, "All Things Wise and Wonderful" (St. Martin's Press, 1977).
In Chapter 37, he described a terrier with a Yorkshire term, a Scottish term, and more specific visual terms that bring the dog to life for those of us who haven't found the other words yet:
" 'I reckon that's the best Pub Terrier I've ever seen.' He bent down from the bar counter and patted Theo's shaggy head as it protruded from beneath his master's stool.
"It struck me that 'Pub Terrier' wasn't a bad description. Theo was small and mainly white, although there was odd streaks of black on his flanks, and his muzzle and a bushy outgrowth of hair which made him undeniably attractive, but still more mysterious.
"I warmed to a Scottish colleague recently who, when pressed by a lady client to diagnose her dog's breed and lineage, replied finally, 'Madam, I think it would be best to call him a wee broon dug.'
"By the same token Theo could with safety be described as a wee white dug, but in Yorkshire the expression 'Pub Terrier' would be more easily understood."
There's the essence of communication -- getting your point to your audience -- but it's still a great example of having fun with language. That's a Sustaining Book indeed.
For more fun with words, stop by the Margaret Serious page on Facebook.
Ready for more fun with words and languages? I'm trying something instead of the wee gray button, but you can still subscribe. E-mail me at Margaret_H_Laing@Hotmail.com, and I'll add you to my list. You will not receive spam, and you may opt out at any time.