Can I Have Instability Sprinkles with That?
Friday, July 29, 2005 at 08:38AM

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?"

Article originally appeared on Figures of Speech (
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