After the ‘fiscal cliff,’ further dangerous metaphors


It was Earth ALL ALONG! (Larry Downing/ Reuters)

Well, they did it. They finally really did it, as that guy says at the end of “Planet of the Apes.”

Congress has reached a deal on the “fiscal cliff.”

The fiscal cliff is a metaphor that has been rampaging through Congress for some time, cutting vacations short and spurring ordinary Americans to yell at the stock market and startle it up or down a few hundred points, and spurring mass runs on dictionary Web sites as people who thought “chain linked CPI” was an unspeakable disease look up “sequestration” and try to use it in sentences. This confusion was not helped by the dozens of syndicated columnists writing pieces with names like “How The Fiscal Cliff Is Like A Movie I Saw Once With A Cliff In It” and “No Congressional Action Exists That Cannot Somehow Be Related To ‘Lincoln.’ ” Now that we had finally gotten our heads around this metaphorical cliff, which would force us to do something unpleasant-sounding about the deficit if we tumbled off it, it is gone.

But given the success of this Metaphor With A Deadline in getting people to read the news, under the misconception that Congress was about to leap off an actual precipice, lemming-style (a prospect 91 percent of Americans would approve of), we can look forward to more metaphors. It’s easy: All you have to do is put a Real Noun together with a Serious-Sounding Economic Adjective, and blow.

Among the other rampaging metaphors we can look forward to in 2013:

–The Debt Ceiling* (see also its old but still vigorous relative the Glass Ceiling)

–The Financial Promontory

–The Deficit Hawk* (nests on the windy side of the Fiscal Cliff)

–The Consumer Confidence Squirrel

–The Surplus Canyon

–The Marginal Interest Sleeping Barrow-King

–The Asymmetric Shock Atoll

–The Underwater Mortgage*

–The Predatory Pricing Wallaby

–The Productivity Lamprey

–The Wages Wuthering Height

–The Capital Gains Badly Lit Stretch Of Slippery Pavement

–The Charitable Giving Tree

*This one is real.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.
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Alexandra Petri | December 31, 2012