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    Dude! Want to Smoke Some Mob?

    Cuomolions.gifQuote:  “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?”

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    Reader Comments (8)

    I love the layered playfulness of the standard Figaresque, like this one's compilation of dope-smoking provocation, herbicidal analysis, and conclusive film allusion, composting while we read into a new rhetorical fertilizer. I wish he'd answer his snail-mail inquiry about a speaking engagement, though!
    February 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChett Breed
    Um...well...actually, I rather like the description. Given his genes, I'm guessing young Cuomo meant a different crack as the fertile field of organized crime.
    February 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Block
    This is completely off the subject, but I was just wondering, what exactly is "an object lesson"?
    February 9, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterkathy Adams
    Actually, I do not think he 'forgets halfway through the metaphor/simile'.

    Seems more like he simply jumps the rail to get to the denouement without building the first half of the figure of speech.

    Like D.B. above, I think it makes perfect sense if you do not think about it too hard.
    February 9, 2008 | Unregistered Commenter...tom...
    While it may "make sense," it is still worth the criticism given. Cuomo should not have to sleep with the fishes, but this metaphor flounders.
    February 9, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjmack
    Figaro, sometimes in your attempts to be the language police, you become too much of a legalistic stickler. The only difference between Cuomo's presentation and yours, is one word (that vs. it). Using the word 'it' keeps the structure sound as a simple simile, where using 'that' as Cuomo chooses, makes this more of an analogy. His usage is more figurative. There is such a thing as 'poetic licence'. I enjoy your work , Jay, but sometimes you need to lighten-up. "There's more than one way to cut the grass!"
    February 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSt. Davey
    Well, goodness. I agree with you, St. Dave, that we don't need no stinking language cops. But I stand by my catachresis.

    Chett, please email me at Figaro@wildblue.net. I'm very red-faced.

    February 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    Kathy, you'll find the answer to your "object lesson" in ASK FIGARO (www.figarospeech.com/ask-figaro).
    February 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro

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