metaphors to the fore

October 13, 2006

Interesting range of metaphors used by some of the people in the news this last couple of days. The Chief of Staff of the British Army, talking about the invasion of Iraq said “Let’s face it, the military campaign we fought in 2003, effectively kicked the door in.” At first I was puzzled by quite what the respected General meant so I did a bit of Googling and found that in most cases it refers to an attempt to break into premises illegally, especially with a view to stealing something. Now I know that a few Mesopotamian statues from the Baghdad museum went missing and the letters o-i-l were probably not too far distant from the minds of some of the politicians plotting the campaign, but I doubted whether this was what the General had in mind. Then it struck me that the phrase was probably a piece of military jargon, enshrined in some bon mot which was then handed down to succeeding military generations. So a few more minutes Googling and bingo! found the source of the quotation. ‘To one of his generals he said, “We have only to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down,”‘ And who is the source of the quotation? None other than the well-known military strategist Adolf Hitler, launching Operation Barbarossa on 22 June 1941. Good to know where our generals get their inspiration from. Actually, those planning the Iraq balls- campaign should have heeded what Hitler went on to say: “At the beginning of each campaign one pushes a door into a dark, unseen room. One can never know what is hiding inside.” If only he’d been there to advise Tony Blair in 2003.
The other interesting metaphor was from Steve McClaren after the complete balls- sorry defeat in Croatia. “You have to get the right people on the bus going in the same direction and that’s staff and players.” Bus? The England football team like a bus? Certainly they looked as likely to score as the number 175 Edgware to Brixton but is that how he sees the team? A great big double-decker spending most of its time stuck in traffic jams? And what about the Brazilians or the Italians? Do they compare themselves to a donkey cart down in Porto Alegre or a portly mamma siddestraddle an aged Lambretta? Do they ficar de fogo! They see their team as a Ferrari with one of those Brazilian drivers whose name I can never be bothered to remember driving it. We could at least think in terms of a Ford Escort or a Mini not a London Transport double decker.
Finally, a strange expression from a judge who ran out of patience with a family squabbling over their money. After hearing accusations that the father, a hunt master (!) and farmer paid for sex, inspected his wife’s underwear to check her fidelity and praised Adolf Hitler (presumably not for his tactical insights) the judge exploded: “We have had an awful lot of slagging off, mud being slung backwards on both sides.” What, I wondered, is the point of slinging mud backwards? I suppose you might be less likely to get caught at it but how much of the mud is actually going to reach its target? I suppose there’s only one way of finding out and as it’s still the rainy season I think I’ll give it a go. And when I get bored with that, I’ll try kicking the door in.

5 Responses to “metaphors to the fore”

  1. crazymac Says:

    Those two Hitler quotes are something else! Very apt!

  2. SilverTiger Says:

    I wonder if the general’s door kicking reference does go back as far as Herr Schicklegruber. This is plausible, of course, and only the general can enlighten us (unless we are partisans of post-modernist thinking according to which no one has a priviledged understanding of a text, not even the author).

    Kicking the door in is a traditional opening gambit in gaining access to locked premises. This is why people expecting a visit from the police or the bailiffs often barricade their front doors with furniture. The police have a dinky red metal battering ram with which to demolish your front door when they come a-calling in the wee small hours.

    I would therefore have understood the remark to mean “In 2003, we busted down the front door, and after that were able to go in any time we felt like it.” I am sure the military, if not the politicians, felt they had unfinished business in Iraq.

  3. tomeemayeepa Says:

    You’re probably right. I understand, though, that the General has “clarified” his remarks by saying that he was using ‘kick in’ in the sense of ‘kicking a football in(to) a goal’ with the clear meaning that the government was achieving its goals in Iraq and he was in total agreement with everything Tony Blair said or did.

  4. SilverTiger Says:

    So he thinks they kicked Iraq’s door into the goal. Hm, the plot thickens. At least he didn’t “kick it into touch”, another popular “kick” metaphor.

    What “clarify” means is something like “I was telling the truth but was chastised because this caused embarrassment for the government. Government theologists have therefore looked at my remarks with a view to ‘reinterpreting’ them to find a spurious meaning more in line with current government spin. I am happy to go along with this as an alternative to losing my job. I will wear my muzzle with pride while they get back to counting the number of angels dancing on Tony Blair’s head.”

  5. tomeemayeepa Says:

    I think that’s definitely a definition for the OED.


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