One thing that literature would be greatly the better for
Would be a more restricted employment by the authors of simile and
metaphor.
Authors of all races, be they Greeks, Romans, Teutons or Celts,
Can’t seem just to say that anything is the thing it is but have to
go out of their way to say that it is like something else.
-Ogden Nash, “Very Like a Whale.”

I can’t help feeling that Mr. Nash hit the nail on the head. Take, for instance, this announcement from House Speaker John Boehner’s office about his new Web site. Speaker.gov “recently received a fresh coat of paint,” according to the announcement.


(Screen shot, 1 PM 6/13/14)

Not only that, but it is “like a cronut.”

Leaving aside the fact that if it is anything like a cronut we should probably not be putting fresh paint on it, this whole choice of metaphor leaves my head spinning.

The text offers little clue, “The site went through its last major overhaul in 2012, but in the worlds of design and technology, that can seem like an eternity. For crying out loud, cronuts had not even been invented yet.

Now, with the cronut revolution in our rearview mirror, we’re excited about the next big thing to please your taste buds…er…computer screens.”

Ah, technology in this post-cronut era. We used to be the Cro-Magnon man. Now we’re the Cronut-Magnon. We have smart phones! And there’s some maniac out there who wants to eat the Speaker.gov Web site.

The announcement tries to clarify what it means, noting, “In the coming weeks and months, we’ll continue to prioritize transparency and functionality as we improve the visitor experience. In that way, Speaker.gov is a lot like a cronut…getting better and better with every bite.”

Who is biting the Web site? (I guess they could have said it got “better and better with every byte,” but then they would have gotten grief for puns.) Do cronuts actually improve with each bite, or do they just get smaller? To be fair, I don’t know what eating a cronut is like. For a long time I thought that cronuts were a legend invented by malicious hipsters to test how gullible we were, like the snipe. Then again, I also thought that about the vogue for monocles, and that turned out to be at least partially happening.

Not to belabor this point too much (too late), this is not a good simile. And also, this is just a textbook case of Let’s Put Hashtag-Friendly Youth-Facing Words Together In A Sentence And Maybe We Can Excite That New Generation of Internet People about our Government Web Site. It so rarely works even when it actually makes sense. But this doesn’t, except maybe on some kind of absurdist ceci-n’est-pas-une-pipe level. I have racked my brains to think of ways that Speaker.gov actually resembles a cronut, and here are the only ones I could come up with.

-Speaker.gov is like a cronut, in that if you just leave it in an open window for a long time it could attract bugs.
-Speaker.gov is like a cronut. I have never tried to eat either of those things.
-Speaker.gov is like a cronut. It is a bad name for a food.
-Speaker.gov is like a cronut. They both are things that have happened recently. But not too recently.
-Speaker.gov is like a cronut. It is not a donut, or a croissant.
-Speaker.gov is like a cronut. Hashtags! Trending! Millennials!

I got nothing.

Let this be a cautionary tale about safe similes: Don’t say something is like something else unless it actually is like that thing.

But otherwise, as Carrie Fisher says, metaphors be with you.

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