Monday, January 29, 2007

PV's chronicle of worn-out metaphors: Peter King (4)

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.

In an October column, Peter King used two cliches in one sentence as he made fun of Andre Ware for overusing cliches: "I even survived Andre (I Never Met a Cliché I Didn't Like) Ware and made it through the ESPN2 telecast." This inspired a Pacifist Viking gimmick of chronicling these cliches.

It's an exercise I hope you appreciate: I actually read King's MMQB from beginning to end looking for cliches, worn-out metaphors, and overused phrases.

I don't like to do it. But after seeing the title of this week's MMQB, I had to do it again.

The title is "Prodigal sons: Teams turn to young coaches for new energy"

"Wow, a cliche right in the title. King continually tops himself." But it got better. You see, this title makes no sense whatsoever in the context of his column. "Prodigal" means wasteful--the biblical parable refers to the son squandering his inheritence. We now often use the prodigal son parable to refer to a figure who leaves on bad terms but returns.

King's column makes no reference whatsoever to either of these uses. As the subtitle shows, he begins by talking about the league trend of hiring young head coaches. There is nothing about wastefulness. There is nothing about a black sheep leaving and returning to make good (the only possible meaningful reference is Norv Turner interviewing with the Cowboys). It was a thoughtless title choice.

So, we've returned this gimmick to lambast King's use of worn-out metaphor once again. But we can't even bother to document every overused phrase he writes--he barely writes without overused phrases (phrases like "With all due respect to" and "the benefit of the doubt" occur all the time. King can't seem to write without them. But these are mere overused phrases, not actual metaphors). So we're going to limit the chronicle to clear cliched language.

"Everything's still up in the air"
"to pick his brain"
"it was a near-photo finish"
"stop the presses"
"Where there's smoke, there's fire,"
"the rich getting richer"
"a clean nose"
"chess match"

King may be a good reporter--he seems to have good connections in the league. But he is an AWFUL writer and deserves our constant scorn.

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