Metaphors are like magic tricks. Worked well, we accept the sleight of hand that presents one thing as another. We accept a partial insight that feels complete. We may even re-perform it ourselves, passing it on to others. The best communicators use metaphors because they make ideas portable. Here are a few recent metaphors from the media:
Xinhua panned Democrats and Republicans for failing “to defuse Washington’s debt bomb for good, only delaying an immediate detonation by making the fuse an inch longer” (Deng Yushan, 3 Aug). Adding a fuse to the old debt bomb metaphor made an important comment fresh, insightful and poignant.
The Economist’s headline on U.S. regulators blocking an AT&T merger: “Tripped at the Altar” (Aug 31, “Schumpeter” by L.S.). This week, on continuing global economy woes, we see, “Mountains to Climb” (Sep 3).
The Guardian blared, “Patient Sinking Fast,” of the looming global debt crisis (Aug 28, Larry Elliott).
*George Lakoff and Mark Johnson referred to “imaginative rationality” in their 1980 paper, “Metaphors We Live By”.