Metaphors are going out of style

We are not going to stop using metaphors any time soon. However, there are some metaphors that have lost or are losing their meaning over time.

Do you remember my questions about whether “slow as a glacier” was an apt metaphor anymore considering global warming? It’s not the only endangered metaphor. Consider the following:

the color will telegraph through the surface

Maybe “telegraph” will be eventually replaced with “wirelessly signaled.” Although it just doesn’t sound as good. But there are entire words that have become arcane. For example,


Sure, we know what it means, but how many of us remember ditto machines or school worksheets in that gloppy purple font? But there are more basic words that could disappear from our vocabulary.


Whom have you dialed recently? Radios don’t even have dials anymore. I guess the word “dial” will soon be replaced by the word “scroll,” which of course is hilarious because it refers to a kind of manuscript that is quite a bit older than the telephone.

What words will you miss?




6 responses to “Metaphors are going out of style

  1. Where I live (far, far away from where I assume you live, given your spelling and discussion topics), our smallest coin is a ten cent piece. However, the penny drops here, just like it does in Denver, San Francisco or Atlanta… (I trust YOU still have pennies?) and I can still hear it go “thunk.” So, even when a metaphor has lost its referents, there’s some hope for its survival…

  2. OK, so “wirelessly signaled” doesn’t really sound that good. But do admit that blue-toothing has a certain je ne sais quoi about it.

    • We still have “knobs” on our “hobs” down here. A “hob” is a a “cook top” or what you probably call a “stove top” – you know, four burners in a hole in your “bench top” (that’s a “counter”).

      We also have knobs in our classes. Heard that before? “Oh my God, he’s such a knob!.” But, I think that refers to male anatomy rather than to buttons..

  3. Xerox seems to have disappeared, as well as turntable. And who’s encountered a lazy Susan lately? Thank goodness for editors with mileage!

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