Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I thought it was a metaphor

A funny line in the movie Twister comes when the fiancee of the storm chaser played by Bill Paxton whines, "When you said you chased tornadoes, I thought it was a metaphor."* That's because she was an expensively educated, intellectual type, who probably valued talking over doing. Otherwise, why would she assume such a silly thing?

Metaphors can explain and deepen insight into the world around us, but they also can just as easily lead both readers and writers off a firm path and into the woods of abstraction. Easy does it is my motto for this literary device.

I confess to feeling a bit lost when reading a news report that the U.S. government has decided that metaphors come under its purview.

"Researchers with the US Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity want to build a repository of metaphors.…Over the last 30 years, metaphors have been shown to be pervasive in everyday language and to reveal how people in a culture define and understand the world around them, IARPA says."

Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity? Does that name inspire confidence that its worker bees are fluent in English? A minimal amount of research (but not intelligence research) showed the Metaphor Program is the brainchild of IARPA's Office of Incisive Analysis. Well, thank goodness. Who knows what the Office of Fuzzy, Rambling Analysis would have done with the Metaphor Program?

I, for one, will sleep better tonight knowing that metaphors are quietly being plucked from every language and culture and transported, humanely, to the D.C. Metaphor Zoo.

There may not be anything in the Social Security lockbox when I come, key in hand, to collect in a few years, but I now know I can spend my declining years on a park bench, feeding the metaphorical pigeons, while around me metaphors of every species are studied in their controlled, life-like habitats.

Life will be a bowl of cherries. Or maybe pitted prunes.

*Quoted from memory. No representation is made to its accuracy. My memory is still breathing on its own, but the doctors are not encouraging.

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