Not long ago, I wrote a somewhat depressing philosophical screed that included concepts and phrases I’ve never used before. Phrases like “tetanus fog” and “smothering with a cellophane pillow.” I didn’t post the discourse on my blog, but I kept it for personal reference. I do that quite a lot. I write what’s on my mind, intending not to share it but to record my frame of mind for my own purposes. I want to try to remember what was on my mind that caused me to write such foul, ugly stuff. The only way to try to remember is to record that foul, ugly stuff.

I remember, but didn’t write it at the time, that I seesawed between “cellophane” and “diaphanous,” opting for cellophane because I think of something that’s diaphanous as being permeable to air. I wanted a word that would conjure an image of a pillow that cut off the flow of air, even though I used it as a metaphor, not as a description of an actual experience.

The same is true of “tetanus fog.” It was intended as a metaphor that would evoke an image of an imaginary mist that seizes the muscles, making speech impossible. I don’t know where that term came from. I searched Google for it this morning and came up with a handful of “hits,” but none of them were even close in meaning to what I intended. So perhaps I finally came up with something original.

I’m not sure why I am writing about what I wrote but have not shared. I don’t plan to share it for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I think it is the product of a foul mood translated into poor writing. And it reveals more of me than I choose to reveal; a depressed core that I should excise somehow. But I was, and remain, fascinated with the terms I latched onto while writing it. Smothering with a cellophane pillow. Tetanus fog. Maybe I’m writing this so that I will one day stumble upon this post, see the phrases, and say to myself, “Eureka! Those are the words I’ve been looking for!


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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