Monday, November 22, 2010

Help! Call the Metaphor Police!

From time to time The New Yorker has column fillers quoting instances from other publications of metaphors that have gone wrong—either inappropriately mixed with others or extended far beyond their useful lives. 

For example, a periodical called Our Town quoted Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa as saying: “I’ve spent a lot of time in the subways. It’s a dark and dank experience….The moment that you walk into the bowels of the armpit of the cesspool of crime, you immediately cringe.”  The New York Times reported the words of an International Monetary Fund official: “As I look at it with a broad brush, there are a lot of things going south at the same time. There’s no silver bullet out there.” And I love the wildly improbable advice of a rhyming headline in The Tulsa World:
            STEP UP TO THE PLATE
            AND FISH OR CUT BAIT

Even more fun was a competition that The Washington Post used to sponsor in which readers were asked to become writers and submit entries for purposely atrocious metaphors or similes. A few of the best, or should I say worst:

            Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its   
sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.

            His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and 
 alliances like underpants in a dryer without 
            Cling Free.

            He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from
            experience, like a guy who went blind because he 
            looked at
 a solar eclipse without one of those     
            boxes with a pinhole in 
it and now goes around the 
            country speaking at high 
schools about the dangers 
            of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those 
            boxes with a pinhole in it.     
            She grew on him like she was a colony of E. coli, and 
 was room temperature beef.

            She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that 
            sound a
 dog makes just before it throws up.

            Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a

            The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But
            unlike Phil, this plan just might work.


            He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame 

            duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, 
 from stepping on a land mine or something.

            The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended 

            one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

Burning his candle at both ends while jumping out of the frying pan, throwing fat on the fire, and fanning the flames, the Bard of Buffalo Bayou keeps his head down, his chin up, his eyes wide open, his mouth shut, and his nose clean, as he slides effortlessly down the razor blade of life, dropping metaphors like bread crumbs as he goes:

            My life is just an open book,
            And it has been too brief.
            Each time I take another look
            At turning a new leaf,
            I find, alas, to my dismay,
            It’s just as I have feared:
            Nothing’s black-and-white—it’s gray,
            And every page dog-eared.

No comments:

Post a Comment