I think I understand this a little better now thanks to everyone's
Let me restate what I think some people have said plus what else I've
managed to google.
If I pretend the electron flow was water instead of electrons, then
what's happening is that the electric company is pushing and pulling
"water" through the black wires at the rate of 60 cycles per second at
an energy level of 120 volts, hence this is "hot".
The white wire, e.g. "pipe" is connected to a large calm lake, e.g.
Now If I were to touch the white wire (assuming it was wired correctly
to the "calm lake", it's just connected a resevoir of electrons at
ground potential so there's no flow. However if I were to touch the
black wire and provide a path to ground, then this "water" would be
flowing through me, e.g. an electrical shock.
Is this at least a reasonable analofy of why black is "hot" and why
white is "neutral"?
Thanks to everyone for their response.