The picture above is part of a strange message that I was recently sent containing rating agency-style predictions for the future for the South African economy. It was written by a soi disant pundit who runs a crystal-ball-gazing opration at an address in, of all places, Boksburg, of which it might be said that, in terms of Standard and Poor, it is more Poor than Standard.
Though the Boksburg Seer’s analysis is not worth discussing, his grammar is, or to be more precise his extravagant mangling of metaphors. In particular, taking the highlighted sentences in turn:
- How can a change of mood cause wheels to fall off? Surely wheels are attached by wheel-nuts or something similar? “Moods”, even “ugly moods”, are non-mechanical.
- Why does one need “scenarios” in order to detect trembling in chandeliers? Surely it is eyesight that is required?
- Who is “programmed” to “stick [their] heads in the sand”? I don’t feel that way. Do the readers of this analysis think of themselves like that?
- How can you “go on enjoying the party” when you have your head buried in sand? Humans need to kneel down, with bottoms in the air, in order to get their heads below ground level. How can you enjoy a party in that uncomfortable posture? And even if you managed that, how could you eat and drink, or speak to other guests, if your mouth was liable to fill with sand every time you opened it? And since sand is not translucent, how would you know when “the lights go out”?
- A separate point is that if the party is being held in the ballroom with the chandeliers, where is the sand likely to be? You need a smooth and preferably slightly springy floor to dance on. Sand has neither quality.
- Finally, the statement that “the purpose of flags is to take emotion out of our judgement” is a mixed metaphor too far. I simply do not understand what the author might have been trying to say. In any event, you cannot pass emotional “judgments”. You can have emotional “responses” but a judgement is, by definition, to some extent rational—but perhaps not so in Boksburg.