Metaphorically challenged

Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly. Associated Press file photo.

Yes, I’m considering paying to watch Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly debate. I suffer from chronic political fatigue. I prefer satire to the real thing (even if the lines are often blurred).

More distracting than the welcome distraction from the 2012 campaign circus? The inept metaphor in the lead of the Associated Press item about “The Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium”:

“One is from Fox News, the other Comedy Central. They might as well be the Capulets and the Montagues.”

Let’s see. Why does this metaphor fail?

The Capulets and Montagues were:

* Warring families
* In a Shakespearean tragedy
* About young lovers

Most people who passed ninth-grade English know that the feud ended only when the young lovers had killed themselves.

Now, let’s take a look at what we know about Stewart and O’Reilly.

* They’re political commentators
* On different cable networks
* Who aren’t even in direct competition with each other

Moreover, one need only read the Associated Press story to discover that they actually get along.

“This idea that somehow people whose viewpoints you can’t quite wrap your head around are not worthy of engagement strikes me as bizarre,” Stewart told the AP.

As a scholar of rhetorical tropes and schemes, I cannot overlook the carelessness of the AP reporter. Yes, this story offers a fairly trivial example of a misused metaphor. But such artlessness reinforces stereotypes and perpetuates public perception of a feud that isn’t really a feud.

As the election approaches, please read carefully and skeptically. If you’re a writer, choose your words with care.



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