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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fiscal Cliff Metaphors Spread Havoc in English Language

"Republican Makes Waves on Fiscal Cliff"
The Fiscal Cliff metaphor continues to take a drubbing from the nation's reporters and political columnists who seem perversely unable to refrain from mangling it.  Headlines such as, "Fiscal Cliff Negotiations Hit Wall," "Obama Draws Line in Sand on Fiscal Cliff," or "Republican Makes Waves on Fiscal Cliff" puzzle thoughtful readers who expect words to actually mean things and for metaphors to make a certain amount of sense.

Not since Hamlet proposed "taking arms against a sea of troubles," has metaphorical meaning been under such assault.  A recent Barrons article, ""Fiscal Cliff Helps Continue Black Hole of Bond Yields," presents such a tangle of images, readers should be warned to avoid looking at it for fear of damaging their corneas.  If the "black hole," a metaphorical concept so attractive it can suck all other metaphors into itself, is added to the Fiscal Cliff analogy, nothing will be left behind, and not even clarity and logic will escape.

Before outright metaphorical anarchy breaks out, a Special Commission on Tropes must be established to enforce a modicum of commonsense into metaphors, similes, analogies, and comparisons generally.  Otherwise, we will soon face Fiscal Cliff metaphors mixed with warnings against throwing babies out with bathwater, counting unhatched chickens, and closing barn doors after horses have exited, by which time it will be too late.

Chaos will ensue.

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