Archive for Metaphors

Blocking and tackling

I recently encountered this sentence in a news story: Traditionally, state parties perform the basic blocking and tackling of politics, from get out the vote programs to building data in municipal elections. I assumed that the phrase blocking and tackling was a slightly odd variation on block and tackle, a system of pulleys and ropes. […]


In response to a Facebook post of mine in 2017, a friend introduced me to the word malaphor, which refers to a phrase that mixes two (or more) idioms. My post used the phrase “The devil’s hands make light work.” A couple of other examples that friends gave in comments: The road to hell wasn’t […]

Scottish yarn

From a review: This Scottish yarn is like a lightweight, well-worn, expertly tailored Harris tweed. To scramble metaphors, the cunning mechanism of the plot purrs like a Rolls, and the writing style is luscious thick Devon cream. That’s The New Republic reviewing Peter Dickinson’s 1970 novel The Sinful Stones. I was amused at the start […]

Eshoo question

A metaphor I was amused by: “The $64,000 question is: How do we put socks on this octopus?” —Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, in a telephone town hall this evening. (A quick web search suggests that the socks/octopus thing is a relatively common phrase, but I hadn’t heard it before.)

Sensory metaphors

In a New York Times piece from 2015, Jonah Berger wrote about the longevity of sensory metaphors. An interesting piece, and an interesting idea. Fits nicely with stuff I’ve been reading about metaphors in Lakoff and Johnson’s Metaphors We Live By. I find the piece a little incomplete in its discussion of the word cool, […]

War metaphors and football

“In a little-discussed shift in recent years, the NFL has moved away from depicting its games in military terms.” Article is from 2009; not sure whether the NFL has shifted back since then. See also my post from a few years ago about violent metaphors.


“Overhead he heard the tiny, unlubricated sound of a bat.” —Theodore Sturgeon, “Excalibur and the Atom,” 1951. Reading these old Sturgeon stories is reminding me that prose can unashamedly use...

laser sharp

A few months ago, I encountered a news article that referred to “laser-sharp focus.” I was amused by what I thought was a recombinant idiom, but then when I Googled...