Predator and Prey–and Alliteration and Rhyme

At the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History yesterday, I learned a little memnonic device for distinguishing predators and prey. Predators tend to have eyes oriented to the front of the skull and prey tend to have eyes oriented to the sides of the skull. A docent told a group of children:

If your eyes are on the side, hide! If they’re looking to the front, hunt!

Is this an old saying? I’ve never heard it before—but I liked it.

“Fight or flight” is another example of opposites rhythmically paired.

Here’s a rhyming, alliterative passage that I recall from the Baghavad Gita, which can be translated into English rather pleasently as: 

One to me is shame and fame,

One to me is loss and gain, 

One to me is pleasure and pain. 

I don’t share the sentiment of the Hindu passage, but pairing opposites by rhyme and alliteration—or even syllable length (as in the line “loss and gain”)—seems to give conceptual opposites at least the illusion of a “higher” unity. I think, however, that at least for me, in the great realm of opposites, I’d rather be a hammer than a nail (Simon and Garfunkle)—a hawk, not a snail.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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