Quote: “We like to think that it’s a vestige of the past. It’s not. It is as unrelenting as weeds that continue to sprout in the cracks of society.” Andrew Cuomo, New York’s attorney general, speaking of organized crime.
Figure of Speech: catachresis (cat-a-KREE-sis), the metaphor gone wild. From the Greek, meaning “bad use.”
Andrew Cuomo is smart, ambitious, and owns great genes (his dad, Mario, was one of the great political speakers of his generation). Plus he says neat-sounding stuff about the mob. Note that he uses “We like to think” rather than “Some morons think,” as many of his fellow New Yorkers might put it.
But then he gets to the weeds sprouting in the cracks of society. Where Figaro comes from, weeds sprout through the cracks of sidewalks, or in the back garden of the pothead down the road. Not society.
Cuomo commits a mistake that Figaro sees all the time in publishing: forgetting halfway through a metaphor or simile that one is being metaphorical. If he had said, “It is as unrelenting as weeds; it continues to sprout in the cracks of society,” then the Mob would serve its proper weedy role in the figure. But he didn’t, so chalk one figurative demerit for Cuomo.
To quote Michael Corleone, “Where the hell does it end?”
Snappy Answer: “And what are you, herbicide?”