That elongated yellow fruit
Readers of yesterday’s post will be delighted to learn of further evidence on the origin of the risible* periphrase** elongated yellow fruit for banana.
Nick from Boston sent me a copy of an 1996 article by James Gill in the Times-Picayune of New Orleans that contained this passage:
Charles W. Morton used to collect examples of the forced second reference, and, as luck would have it, a copy of one of his essays on the subject - hard to find these days - turned up last week. …
It was about 60 years ago that Morton was in the city room of the Boston Evening Transcript and came across a story about policemen using bananas as bait in an attempt to capture fugitive monkeys.
"The young rewrite man of the story was bowling along in high spirits, full of references to 'the gendarmes' and 'the blue-coated minions of the law,' and it was inevitable that in such a context the word banana would seem woefully dull," Morton relates. "So it was that bananas became, after first mention, 'the elongated yellow fruit.' "
A little further rummaging about the Internet suggests that Morton’s article may be included in A Slight Sense of Outrage. Anyone have access to a copy?
* You might prefer laughable, but I hear risible in my head in Anna Russell’s irresistible voice.
** Periphrase is a rhetorical device in which a descriptive phrase or epithet is substituted for a word or name. In moderation — the president as an alternative to writing Bush repeatedly — it is a reasonable remedy for monotony. Taken to excess, as ill-judging writers tend to do with figures of speech — the white-robed pontiff for the pope — it becomes affected, distracting or ridiculous.