Tag: metaphor


Words in the news: ‘a swarm of people’

Is the phrase ‘a swarm of people’ automatically pejorative and insulting? Or is it merely a harmless metaphor? That is the issue this blog explores. The many critics of David Cameron’s use of the phrase in a TV interview certainly found it insulting (fuller context is at the end). Labour’s acting leader, Harriet Harman, stated […]

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poetic devices

Do you know your poetic devices?

Think back to English class. Poetry can be tough to talk about without the right set of tools. It’s one thing to observe that a line of poetry sounds particularly fluid, or that the break in a line makes the poem particularly effective – but another to explain that assonance and enjambment are the reasons, respectively.

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Light, bright, and sparkling: the language of light

The UN has declared 2015 to be the ‘International Year of Light’, so we thought that was a good opportunity to look at the language of light. Unsurprisingly, light is a very old word. It appears at the beginning of one of the oldest texts in English – Aelfric’s translation of Genesis – in the […]

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Everyday expressions and their poetic origins

Our impression of “poetic” language as distinct from “everyday” language is unsurprising. At first glance, the flourishes of ornate, pre-1900 verse seem incompatible with common speech, either by virtue of their conspicuously high diction or the maudlin matters they seemingly address. One might hesitate, for instance, to liken a romantic interest to a lovely and […]

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The fiscal cliff

The fiscal cliff

On Wednesday morning, after months of focusing on the electoral horserace, Americans awoke to find themselves in a perilous position; we had been sleeping at the edge of the fiscal cliff. But how did we get here? The metaphor of a fiscal cliff – meaning an anticipated event which will have dire economic consequences unless an […]

food for thought

Using food for thought: Intellectual hunger, thirst, and omnivorous behaviors

We search for things to read to satiate our intellectual hunger or quench our thirst for knowledge. A favorite of mine is the phrase that someone is ‘intellectually omnivorous’, meaning that their intellectual diet consists of all (omni-) types of brain foods. Junkier ideas which are sweet and appealing are called brain candy. Brain candy […]

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Six obsolete endearments for old-fashioned romantics

Some terms of affection, like darling, have endured in the English language from the outset, while others have come and gone in less than a century. The language of love thrives on metaphor, but precisely what connotes affection has changed over time. Some endearments employed by love poets in centuries past, like sparling (a type […]

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