Every now and then I hear sporting metaphors and wonder why they capture a situation better than expressions from other aspects of life. True, accounting expressions such as "balancing (or cooking) the books" can sometimes give great metaphorical flavour, though they also raise the eye brows. Medical terms such as "putting him under" (anaesthesia) or "taking the medicine" or "doing what the doctor ordered" can fit well in certain social contexts. Of course, being a one-time sportsman, it's probably the case that I catch the sporting metaphors better--a kind of aural reaction syndrome,like if I hear "Duck!" I bend down rather than peer into the sky.
Of course the nature of the sport renders the metaphor different, and that can also render them inappropriate at best or misunderstood at worst. In the Caribbean, most sporting metaphors relate to cricket: "going down the track"; "batting on a sticky wicket"; "bowling him a googly"; "going with the spin"; "being stumped"; "hitting it through the covers" are a few that easily come to mind. As I wrote, if you don't know cricket (and now shame is ready to be poured on your head) then these are terms lost on you.
In the UK, football (aka soccer) terms abound nowadays: "scoring an own goal"; "being shown the red (yellow) card"; "moving the goal posts"; "catching them offside"; etc. However, athletics terms used to be very popular--I guess in the days when sport was really for gentlemen, and not those money-grubbing good-for-nothings: "it's a marathon"; "getting over the hurdles"; "breasting the tape"; "raising the bar", etc.
In the US, terms from baseball ("getting to first base"; "hitting a home run"; "a new ball game"; "throwing a fast (curve or spit) ball", etc) or American football ("punting the ball away"; "quarterbacking"; "getting good yardage"; "throwing an interception" etc.) tend to dominate. I have to admit a certain ignorance here, because I know certain sports are popular in north America and they have terms that are used, but I am not familiar with them. I did not hear Governor Palin use any ice hockey, or moose hunting, or snow-mobiling terms so she did not help the rest of us get an idea of how the sporting life as seen from Wasila (or is it as seen from Russia's east coast?).
Likewise, I don't know how popular are metaphors from the martial arts or show jumping or gymnastics or water polo or curling. There are limits to knowledge.
I can think of nice metaphors from pool, snooker or billiards ("being behind the 8 ball"; "using a straight cue"; "right into the pocket" etc.) These reflect not wasted days but sleepless nights, during an era in England when they began to develop a TV audience for those who liked to see balls roll across a green baize.
These metaphors can have their time and their place; but they can also can be very misplaced. It is also inadvisable to mix sporting metaphors. Politicians trying to be clever will try this: "I am not going to be a Monday morning quarterback and try to say that fixing the financial crisis will be a slam dunk" might work, though the image of a man padded up like he's heading off into space trying to leap--maybe in a single bound--and plunk a big ball into a hoop is a bit mind boggling. Likewise, those English MPs who would say something like "I had to show the Member from Thorton Thicket the red card for his comments, but have to admit that had I had to face such hostile bowling on a sticky wicket, I too might have been tempted kick the ball into touch," do show off their knowledge of sports but they also have us running all over the field.
Keep your eyes open and your ears pricked.
"Cyborg Finance" paper - Little pre-abstract primer for this paper: *Detective Del Spooner*: Human beings have dreams. Even dogs have dreams, but not you, you are just a machine. A...
2 weeks ago