We recently introduced Mr. Potatohead. Now meet his decorous cousin, Russian Doll. Another way to catalog, this figure wraps your items up in an irresistible description. Winston Churchill, that world-class master of figuring, did this at the beginning of the Second World War, referring to Russia.
It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery
inside an enigma.
Notice how Churchill uses the Russian nesting doll as a metaphor to illustrate the whole nation. But it works even when you’re not playing metaphorically with dolls. Here’s Emily Yoffee in Slate.com:
Many countries collectively agree…that children are a tantrum wrapped in a diaper and not worth the trouble.
We call this the Russian Doll for obvious reasons. To deploy the figure, it helps to have an object with some sort of covering. A diaper serves as a natural covering for babies. But your wrapping doesn’t have to be cloth. You might have your victim cover himself.
The principal is a rulebook wrapped in pomposity inside a whole lot of bad skin.
If you happen to be an actual student, please don’t try that particular example; it’s for demonstration uses only. But you can see that any object or person with a distinctive outer layer can make for a great Russian Doll. Suppose you wanted to say something memorable about the fire hazard of a Christmas tree. You can convert it into a comparable object, cover it with something, wrap it with something else, and deliver a good scare.
A Christmas tree is an incendiary bomb covered in needles and wrapped in electric bulbs.
You just can’t beat an incendiary bomb for newsworthiness, and a rhetorical incendiary bomb does the job without harming a soul. Figures don’t get better than that.