Thursday, March 26, 2009

The metaphors we use

I have been trying not to use 'mad' as a metaphor in my writing, but some posts are harder than others. I found it really challenging to write a post about holocaust deniers without saying "these people are batshit crazy". Over at Alas there's been some discussion of this and Donaquixote articulated the reasons for avoiding madness as a metaphor very well:

I also get the insane = disconnected from reality definition you were going with. But there’s a huge difference between an illness that disconnects you from reality as a result of neurochemical processes and the condition of being willfully disconnected from reality because you don’t want to have your opinions challenged. One is an illness, the other is a character flaw, and the two ought never be confused. The problem is a lot of our terminology quite purposefully does confuse the two.
Many of the derogatory metaphors that come most easily to us are about comparing something we don't like with the powerless.

Metaphoric language is powerful - even as cliched metaphoric language as 'batshit crazy'. I don't think we should give up metaphors, I think we should be creative, more precise and more true in the metaphors we do use.

I thought a way of doing that would be to open a thread for discussion so people could post their metaphors, and other derogatory language, that don't pathologise powerlessness.

I'm not suggesting we start calling everyone we dislike a futures trader, but I think there are lots of smart articulate people who comment on blogs I write on. We can do better than the derogatory terms we do now.

I'm posting this on Capitalism Bad; Tree Pretty, Alas and The Hand Mirror, for maximum discussion.

Please don't post in this thread unless you're actually interested in developing new metaphors. If you're doubtful about the usefulness of new metaphors then go talk about that somewhere else.


  1. I've always been fond of "half a bubble off plumb" because it seemed to refer to deliberately skewed thinking rather than something innate.

    Heh, the word verification is making political commentary; it wants me to type "facapope". How about that as a new one? It could stand for "as deliberately murderous as the pope's policies".

  2. Anonymous8:34 am

    Why do people always attribute dark and evil motives to people they disagree with.

    Wingnuts : Liberals do not want to destroy America (They believe that what they do and say will help America)

    Anti-Catholics : The pope does not want to hurt people (He believes that what he says and does will help people)

    It's possible for people to be honestly wrong you know. (In reference to the Pope.)

  3. My personal favourite is calling someone a indivual possessivist (i think it has more poetry and sibilance than 'possessive individualism') x