Saturday, November 29, 2008

Try this metaphor on for size

It's curious. When I write about significant problems here, they rarely draw a response.

But when I oppose "The (so called) Civil War," the name of the game, devoted Ducks and Beavers go ballistic. And I'M the one who is supposed to "get a life."

See comments on my post.

OK, let's choose another (mere?) historical event in which multitudes (millions, in fact) were killed. I guess you would call it a real rout, in football terms. Let's suppose that one of Oregon's teams runs away with today's game. Why not call the rout "A Holocaust"?

Offended yet?

First, count to ten.


Now ask yourself where you draw the line and why.

Extra credit: Who was that sports editor who voted "The Civil War" off the sports page? What could he have been thinking?

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Anonymous Adam said...

Not so fast, there is a huge difference in those two metaphors, and not just in the amount of lives lost.

Your Holocaust metaphor is comparing losing a football game by a lot of points to having a huge percentage of a certain population murdered. The Civil War metaphor is comparing two very real battles. Granted, the actual Civil War was uncountably times more important and serious, but the football version of the Civil War is also a battle between two sides. A conflict. A struggle. If you look up the word "war" in the dictionary you will find those words in it's definitions.

I'm sure people use the word war to describe other struggles or conflicts between two parties. Do you think that every time someone uses the word war to describe anything other than an actual military war they are dishonoring anyone who has died in a war?

You're absolutely right, a line should be drawn. I think using the term "Civil War" to describe this rivalry is on the innocent side of the line. You think differently. The problem is, the line is invisible and there is no way everyone's line can be the same. And the problem for you is that your line is a lot different than the majority's line.

2:23 PM  
Blogger Rick Seifert said...

First, Adam, thanks for your thoughtful comment.

I've thought a lot about the "war" metaphor and the ways it has been applied — thoughtlessly, in my view. (By the way, George Lakoff also examines the useage in "Metaphors We Live By."

You are right, "war" has taken on other meanings than the literal one. LBJ coined "The War on Poverty." We've had the "War on Drugs." I suppose someone somewhere has proposed a "War on Ignorance."

But in each case, the stakes in "the War" were much, much greater than who won or lost a football game, which, by the way, is not "a battle," unless you choose to define it as such.

"Battle" is another word that is carelessly used. Used without caring. "The Battle for the White House." "The Battle of the Detergents." None compares to "The Battle of Britain" or "The Battle of the Bulge."

Call my crazy, but yes, I do believe that we do, thoughtlessly, dishonor those who have died in war and battle when we sap these words of their meaning and significance.

I agree, we all draw the line in different places. Being in a minority doesn't bother me in the least. I'm accustomed to that. I also know that it doesn't necessarily mean I'm wrong.

All I'm asking is that the majority (or even a minority of the majority) fully consider what they communicate by this name. They might also consider some alternatives.

That's another subject. Question: Can you think of a better name for the rivalry? There must be dozens. "The Rain Barrel"? "The Wet One"?

I'll pass on "The Slugfest" but at least it's better than "The Civil War."

4:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rick, there is a movie titled "Idiocracy" that I personally believe predicts how the future of the English language would evolve. I'm sure it will give the NMLC nightmares, and could even motivate more concern & commitment to your cause.

Prostitution of literature; that's what I would call it. It's when spin doctors and marketing gurus prostitute words to make a sell or entice an audience. Can a diamond karat equate proof of love? Does your Columbia sportswear jacket really contain Ti? Is your Nike made of air? Are you driving a green car? Free credit report at

Is there really such a thing like the phrase "civil war"? If its civil, why were so many people killed, towns pillaged, women raped, and children orphaned?

Oh and before I forget, will the football game feature ducks and beavers? This, I have to see!

7:08 AM  

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