Where the Pacific Coast Highway hiccups inland…

Word count: 284 words

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

I read widely, watch movies and listen to the radio. In today’s post you’ll see an interesting piece of figurative language by Nathan Heller I encountered recently.

A columnist for Slate Magazine and a film and TV critic for Vogue, Nathan Heller grew up in San Francisco but lives in New York now. He has also written for The New YorkerThe New York Times Magazine and Bookforum. And the man clearly knows how to employ verbs judiciously.

Here is a sentence of his from an article he wrote about TED talks, headlined “Listen and Learn” in the July 9/12 New Yorker. (Apologies: I couldn’t find the original story online so I’m linking to a related New Yorker piece on TED also written by Heller.)

Long Beach is a marina town, a place where the Pacific Coast Highway hiccups inland and the tallest buildings crowd down to the waterfront. 

Here, Heller gives us not just personification (how does a highway hiccup? how does a building crowd?) but also a spectacular use of verbs. I find maps boring (fortunately, for my family, my husband really likes them) and I would never have equated a “bump” in the little line on a map with a hiccup, but as soon as I read it, I realized it was an absolutely perfect word.

As a big fan of TED talks, I enjoyed the rest of Heller’s article, too, and was intrigued (although unsurprised) to learn about the number of cameras employed and the massive amount of editing used. The article is well worth reading if you can find it. (Most public libraries keep the New Yorker on file.)

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