Similes as Thick as an Ash Cloud
Remember the tsunami of metaphors engendered by the Indian Ocean’s 2004 contribution to making the Japanese word a more readily accessible part of our lexicon?
(The riptide of references has yet to fully recede, by the way, as indicated by recent headlines like “National debt: A tsunami of red ink.”)
This time around, of course, the natural disaster in question is the Icelandic volcano, which is serving as a fount, not only of ash, but also of objects of comparison, neologisms and, inevitably, puns and doctored aphorisms.
As it turns out, commentators covering Britain’s general election campaign appear to be drawn to Eyjafjallajökull like moths to lava. This Guardian article notes that the primary target of such fiery comparisons has been the third-party candidate for prime minister, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.
“Damien Reece of the Daily Telegraph compared Clegg’s success to ‘a surprisingly large puff of smoke that will inevitably disappear after causing some serious disruption,’” writes Elizabeth Day in the Guardian piece. Other citations Day found include a reference in The Times of London to Britain’s Labour Party, represented by the color red, and the Conservative Party, represented by blue (just reverse the color scheme of America’s donkeys and elephants): “a volcano has erupted and a cloud of ash has grounded all the red and blue planes.”
Despite having no idea what the Ashes are, American commentators have also gotten into the game. Day quotes an unnamed CBS news correspondent as “churlishly” saying that Clegg “has a snowball’s chance in an Icelandic volcano” of becoming Britain’s next prime minister.
But political campaigns are not the only man-made disasters for which force majeure can serve as a basis of comparison.
For Bobby Cleveland of Mississippi’s Clarion-Ledger, the massive BP oil spill is apparently not a serious enough blight in its own right to avoid being likened to that other catastrophe. “Let there by no mistake,” he writes. “[T]here is a volcano of oil on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico spewing 200,000 gallons of crude a day with no end in sight.”
“I got volcanoed,” Paul Dickinson, the CEO of a greenhouse reporting organization who had to cancel plans to fly from Beijing to London to interview three job applicants, told Fortune magazine. (He ended up interviewing them via teleconference, which seems like a much more fitting method for a company called the Carbon Disclosure Project.)
Other media outlets went with headlines like “A Letter From My European ‘Volcation’” and “Travelers stranded on ‘volcation’ in NYC get helping hand.”
Then, of course, there’s the punning opportunity that headline writers live for. The text of that Fortune story about the CEO who realized that teleconferencing could be at least as good as stomping around leaving carbon footprints all over the place tells us there’s a “silver lining to every cloud, even the one made up of volcanic ash.” And the headline? “Volcanic activity: Businesses winning the Iceland ‘boom.’”
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