Monday, January 24, 2011

Metaphors Don't Kill People.

"Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me." I heard that all the time as a kid and didn't realize until much later that it wasn't true. Words can be harmful. Even deadly.  Since minutes after it happened, the media have been trying to connect the tragedy in Tucson with harsh words -- and the military metaphors used to describe political battles.

Tucson wasn't the result of politics or words. It was one wacko with a gun. And now, apparently the media is hard at work to protect us from "violent" metaphors -- words like "targeting" or "in the cross hairs" or "taking aim" among others.

The dictionary describes a metaphor as "a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied tosomething to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance." Hint: metaphors aren't literal.

Communicators use metaphors to make points when used as comparisons. To make a comparison, you need a strong example. It happens that the strongest metaphors for competition are related to fighting and war. "Toning them down" means diluting the message. Using war metaphors doesn't cause violence any more than saying "my mother is gonna kill me" will make it so.

What's next?

If you want to talk about guns, that's another story. But please media, if you must protect me from words, just shoot me now.

Copyright 2011, Bremmer & Goris Communications, Inc.

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