Notes From Babel

Lousy Imagery: “Dovetail”

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When two ideas “dovetail” into one another, what exactly does that mean?  What image does it conjure?  If the meaning is to suggest that two ideas have many points of agreement and logical similarity, that they interlace as a pair of folded hands, then what is a bird rudder doing in the conversation?

The allusion to a “dovetail” comes from furniture-making.  In putting furniture together with mortar and tenon joints, the tenon is cut with a spread that looks something like a dove’s tail.

By all means, furniture makers, as you were: allude away to “dovetails.”  For the rest of us who have no idea what the above description of mortar and tenon joints means, probably time to find a new word.

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Written by Tim Kowal

September 9, 2010 at 10:26 pm

Posted in Language

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