Metaphors are everywhere. They’re all around us. But how often do you miss them when they’re right under your nose? We conducted a Quietroom experiment, looking at some of this morning’s front pages to see how pervasive their use of metaphor was.
The answer? Very. Even their mastheads are metaphors, albeit sometimes rather ill fitting ones. The Sun may well shine light into dark corners, but how much warmth does it radiate? What exactly is the Guardian guarding? Truth? Fairness? Elbow patches? As for the Daily Mail – well, that would only be an appropriate metaphor if every day one received a crayon-scrawled note from the neighbours complaining about the foreign family that’s moved in over the road.
Moving on to the metaphors themselves, let’s start with the Guardian. The front page is packed with almost fifty metaphors. Many are so ingrained in our vernacular that we no longer see how colourful their literal meanings are supposed to be. For instance, the assertion that Clegg is under pressure to ‘pick a fight with the prime minister’ makes you wonder whether a good bout of fisticuffs might not actually clear the air once and for all. And the idea of the HMRC team thundering down the road ‘to tackle’ a tax dodger is rather a reassuring one, too. Even the political soundbite du jour, Clegg’s promise not to ‘manufacture synthetic rows’ with the Tories, is a metaphor.
We also braved the Daily Mail. And it seems that today’s characteristically flammable tone is achieved with the help of metaphor (almost 30 on the front page, despite most of the space being taken up by a picture of Myleene Klass). Beneath a headline declaring a ‘tax war’ on the middle classes, we’re told that Nick Clegg has ‘launched a two-pronged attack’ in which tax evasion will be ‘aggressively pursued’. The Mail explains that the targets will be ‘those hiding money offshore’ (under the mattress? In the airing cupboard?). On a serious note, Clegg himself turns to metaphor to explain the effects of tax avoidance, describing it as ‘stealing money from your neighbours.’ It tells readers that, unless they’re the kind of person who’s willing to make off with the DVD player from next door, they shouldn’t be dodging their tax payments, either.
And The Sun? Well, of the lead story – about the Rooneys’ marital difficulties – there were fewer than fifty words on the front page. But we still learn that ‘Coleen [is] snubbing rat hubby’s matches’. Here, metaphor is used to insult. But, in truth, Coleen might have more fun living with an actual rat than with Wayne Rooney.