Wednesday, October 25, 2006

PV’s chronicle of metaphors: Dr. Z, and how metaphor can be good

In "Politics and the English Language," George Orwell's first rule of good English usage is “Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.” We now seek out writers who overuse such uncreative language.

Using metaphors, similes, images, and figures of speech is not inherently bad. Orwell doesn’t condemn the use of all metaphor; he just says that a scrupulous writer should only use an "image fresh enough to have an effect.” A good writer should use idioms and images, but a good writer will be creative, making up his/her own metaphors, using them in clever ways, and making comparisons in ways we haven’t seen many times in order to illustrate the idea.

So to contrast the mundane clichés used by Peter King, I now present a chronicle of metaphors, similes, figures of speech, idioms, and images from
Dr. Z’s most recent Power Rankings.

It should be noted that Z’s Power Rankings are very tongue in cheek (cliché! cliché!): he uses word play, makes fun of language, and jokes around. I’ll continue the chronicle throughout the week, but I’m guessing he uses a lot more of this type of language in the Power Rankings than in his “Inside the NFL” and “Mailbag” columns.

Yes, Dr. Z does use some dull figures of speech (as you can see below), but he also uses a lot of clever language and images to express his ideas. There’s originality in his uses. Whereas King is just trotting out (cliché! cliché!) time-worn clichés (the kind of writing that, as Orwell says, doesn’t really require thinking), Dr. Z is using the language in a fresh way.

“____ has taken the pipe”

“Ice up the Moet et Chandon, honey, we're gonna have a party”

“as Napoleon must have watched his Old Guard destroyed at Waterloo”

“clutching their throats”

“I've got to get my head straight”

“serene waters.”

“I can hoist ___ over the ___”

“spiked to the max”

“Now that the Dee is hot, their guys are dummying up, too”

“Terrorist alert! Our correspondent reports the following”

“It's like sitting at a Texas hold 'em table: If you don't get in the pots, you can't lose all your chips. Until, of course, the antes get you. Or the uncles.”

“a thrashing unruly mess”

“It's the armless and legless Hawks”

“a rough bunch of bruisers”

“Shall we reload and move on?”

“their point machine.”

“Quick, make the sign of the cross. Unclean! Unclean!”

“gave the team a thorough tongue-lashing”

“That, say the reports from Santa Land”

“these appeals to the red blood cells have a way of dying quickly”

“I thought I had in the bag”

“In boxing, sometimes you know that one guy just has the other one's number, no matter what their records are.”

“not really big-league”

“you know what that means ... ssshhh, the postseason.”

“What a sad sight”

“a tribute to the mock heroic,”

“OK, there's room for one. All applicants line up over there. Well, there are some familiar faces”

“something washes up”

“but fate just doesn't seem to smile on some people.”

“Only Shakespeare could have done this justice. …I'd set the drama in Verona, outfit 'em all with swords and pantaloons and let them go at it.”

“it makes you want to weep for the downtrodden”

“what is the price Kitna must now pay for his eulogy? Fining? Flogging? The stocks, the branding iron? You know he's not about to repent -- or convert.”

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