You can discuss the substance of Andrew Sullivan's new celebration of the amazing oratory of Barack Obama, but I see this as an occasion to reprint what I consider to be the single most useful item of advice in George Orwell's essential essay "Politics and the English Language": "Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print." Background:
Dying metaphors. A newly invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a visual image, while on the other hand a metaphor which is technically "dead" (e.g. iron resolution) has in effect reverted to being an ordinary word and can generally be used without loss of vividness. But in between these two classes there is a huge dump of worn-out metaphors which have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves. Examples are: Ring the changes on, take up the cudgel for, toe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, no axe to grind, grist to the mill, fishing in troubled waters, on the order of the day, Achilles' heel, swan song, hotbed. Many of these are used without knowledge of their meaning (what is a "rift," for instance?), and incompatible metaphors are frequently mixed, a sure sign that the writer is not interested in what he is saying.I, the reader, am interested... and totally distracted by an assless man running around barefoot.