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    Can I Have Instability Sprinkles with That?

    Quote:   “Cone of Instability.” Fox News military analyst and retired Major General Bob Scales, quoted in CJR Daily

    Figure of Speech: Catachresis (cat uh Kree sis), or Metaphor Gone Wild

    According to General Scales, "many people” use the label “Cone of Instability” to refer to those countries where the U.S. is sending military advisors in the battle against al Qaeda.  There’s nothing wrong with cool labels.  They help retired generals get on TV.  But when a label fails to mean anything, it turns into a metaphorical delinquent called the catachresis.  

    Wielding his video pen like John Madden on speed, the general drew this “cone” for Fox viewers.  We’re no Cone of instability.jpgmilitary  expert, but doesn't that look more like a Venn diagram than a cone?  Scales’s scribble seems to include every Moslem nation on the planet.

    And there’s the rub.  Muslims might get touchy if we start sending military to “advise” all of Islam.  But bringing peace and freedom to the Cone of Instability, well, who’s to argue with that?  Where you find a catachresis, a euphemism lurks nearby.

    Snappy Answer:   "Who uses 'Cone of Instability', General?  Maxwell Smart?"

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    Reader Comments (4)

    Ok Figaro,
    This is what I get for telling my AP class they need to check your blog
    each day. Aspersions on our 10th grade curriculum. We continue to "torture" our students by making them memorize the Gettysburg Address each year. If they want more time, they can purchase anextra weekend with a donation of canned goods to our back of the room
    collection (which eventually goes to a local food bank). For your information, the reason there isn't a
    photoof Lincoln delivering that speech is because it was so short that nobody had set up a camera. So it is
    hardly torture to make kids learn the darn speech.
    Maybe pick another example, or check with me first!
    Your biggest fan outside people who have to live with you.
    July 29, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterDeb Nelson
    Actually, there is a photo of Lincoln at Gettysburg: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/gadd/gaphot.html
    Granted, it sucks (it looks like that scene in "Life of Brian" where the people in the back of the crowd can't hear what Jesus is saying).

    But have you seen the great picture of Edward Everett, the guy who preceded Lincoln with a two-and-a-half-hour speech? No? Neither have I. That photographer must have been pretty slow on the uptake.

    You're to be commended for emphasizing Memory, one of Cicero's five Canons of rhetoric. (The other four were, uh, I forget.) But why limit yourself to Lincoln? Make 'em memorize Everett! Now, tell me THAT isn't torture.
    July 29, 2005 | Registered CommenterFigaro
    Clever Figaro, there IS a photo but not taken during the very short speech. The text says it was snapped three hours earlier. As for memorizing Everett, you win. That would be torture.
    You might be interested to learn that In A History of Reading (p.61) Alberto Manguel notes that the Roman doc Antyllus wrote that "those who never learned verses by heart and must instead resort to reading them in books sometimes have great pains in eliminating, through abundant perspiration, the noxious fluids that those with a keen memory of texts eliminate merely through breathing."

    Anybody mentioned your heavy breathing lately?
    July 29, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterDeb Nelson
    Damn. I didn't expect you actually to click on that link.

    While we're playing our barroom ancient-guy toss, it was (ahem) Plato who said that words "seem to talk to you as though they were intelligent. But if you ask them anything, they go on telling you just the same thing forever." Worse, once someone puts a thought on paper it "drifts all over the place, getting into the hands not only of those who understand it, but equally of those who have no business with it; it doesn't know how to address the right people, and not to address the wrong."

    Anyone who has watched an embarrassing e-mail bounce around a company knows just what Plato means. But he might have liked e-mail's interactivity. Thanks to the Internet, writing has become socialized, more spontaneous--very much like speech.

    Without the heavy breathing.

    That you can hear, anyway.
    July 29, 2005 | Registered CommenterFigaro

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