I’ve been having a massive clearout and, finally, the poach pods have gone for recycling. I bought the set of garish purple silicon egg poachers years ago in the UK. Back then I thought they were a brilliant idea but they turned out to be one of the most useless things I’ve ever had in my kitchen. Because of their shape and the way they sat in the boiling water, it was actually impossible to achieve a proper poached egg with firm white and runny yolk.
But the clever name of the thing lives on in my collection of cool and effortlessly-coined alliterations.
Of course alliteration is used a lot for effect in poetry and prose, and is one of the mainstays of advertising slogans and newspaper headlines. And it can go all too easily over the top into purple prose.
Alliteration also accounts for some of the most dazzling displays of vernacular creativity. A new product or concept, a newly observed or defined attitude or behaviour pattern creates a lexical gap – it needs a name – which English loses no time in filling. If you can get one that alliterates, you’re really rolling.
For example, bum is slang for buttocks in British English, so the pouch or bag that is worn slung around the waist or hips was not called a hip bag or waist bag, on the analogy of handbag and shoulder bag, but a bum bag.
Eye-glasses with small, circular steel or gold frames are granny glasses. A psychiatric hospital is a funny farm. An aggressively rude or reckless cyclist is a lycra lout.
How could we exist without mind maps, cash cows, bodice-busters, Net nannies, Coca Cola, fast food, cuddle chemicals or happy hormones? To say nothing of the World Wide Web.
How tedious life would be without head hunters, people pleasers, baby boomers, bit bangers and paper-pushers, go-getters, rug rats, curtain climbers and Disneyland daddies.
How is it that so often the right words for naming a concept, theory, object, behaviour or type of person happen to alliterate? Dumb down, strut your stuff, credit crunch, plug and play, farm to fork, stainless steel, boom or bust, feast or famine, peer pressure, fight or flight. And the mindblowingly perfect Big Bang.
It really does seem like the things and the word combinations have a natural affinity: a real match made in heaven.
As always, your own favourites in the comments, please.