Friday, January 19, 2007


Using metaphors

I heard someone on television this morning, talking portentously about global warming, use the phrase: "lighting the fuse on a ticking time-bomb". Now, does one have to light a fuse on a time-bomb? Don't they just get set? I would have thought if it were ticking then lighting a fuse would be unnecessary; the thing was already getting ready to explode. All a bit of a muddle, metaphor-wise, and it rather masked whether what she was saying was right or not.

On a similar note, I can't watch Lord of the Rings without wincing every time archers are told to "fire". You don't "fire" an arrow (unless I suppose it is a fire-arrow); the term applies to gunpowder-based weapons, logically enough. For archers, the term is "loose" or "shoot". That's the trouble with being a pedant, you get niggled by everything.

I remember being invited to the premiere of a period film based on a Henry James novel - Michelle Pfeiffer was in it I think - with a lot of then-colleagues from the V&A. It was a good enough film in many ways, but all the way through, the art curators were whispering things like: "oh no, they never wore the collar buttoned like that," or "look at that chair, completely the wrong period, ten years later at least". So generally I keep quiet about my hair-splitting when in company.


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