June 2, 2021–Why not judge a book by its cover? How else are you going to tell whether a book is worth opening?

During a long drive the past weekend I was considering all the aphorisms we accept without thinking. Like “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” What is the alternative? Put one egg in each of 12 baskets?

This thought experiment was probably inspired by the clever cartoonist Nathan W. Pyle, who crafts an online comic strip where actual aliens confront and grapple with basic human concepts. Let’s play. Can you guess what common objects these refer to in Pyle’s universe:


sustenance preserver

hot danger screamer

personal star dimmers


hot leaf liquid

twice heatblasted doughslice

sweet disks

comfort square

exploded grains

jitter liquid

foot ramps

mouth stone brush

vibrating creature

fabric predator creature

star damage limiter


Here are the answers:

rollsuck–vacuum cleaner

sustenance preserver–refrigerator

hot danger screamer–smoke alarm

personal star dimmers–sunglasses

foot-orb–soccer ball

hot leaf liquid–tea

twice heatblasted doughslice–toast

sweet disks–cookies

comfort square–pillow

exploded grains–popcorn

jitter liquid–coffee

(espresso is “complex jitter liquid”)

foot ramps–high heels

mouth stone brush–toothbrush

vibrating creature–cat

fabric predator creature–teddy bear

star damage limiter–sunscreen


It becomes a fun exercise to look at common behaviors and conventions as if we had never encountered them before.

For example, the way we play golf is silly. If the goal is to get the ball in the hole, wouldn’t it be more efficient to walk up to the hole and drop the ball in? I guess that is an example of the human need to make something simple complicated, then call it a sport.

Or when my 6-year-old granddaughter saw my old-fashioned alarm clock and asked, “Papa, is that your bedside morning waker-upper?”

So the next time you throw out some facile phrase–time flies, beautiful inside and out, it’s not the heat it’s the humidity–pause a moment and consider whether there is some more artful, clever, refreshing way you can phrase it. You’ll make the world a more interesting star-circling orb.