April 7, 2012

"This grasping at straws was just the capstone to what even liberal observers admitted was a week of self-immolation..."

I'm annoyed that I can't get into that article — about the SG's argument in the Obamacare case — because I don't have a subscription to the Weekly Standard. Now, I'll never know whether that article contains a funnier mixed metaphor than that.

What are those images?

Self-immolation is deliberately setting oneself on fire. I picture dramatic protests from the Vietnam era, but it's been going on for centuries:
It was Western media coverage of Buddhist monks immolating themselves in protest of the South Vietnamese regime in 1963 that introduced the word "self-immolation" to a wide English-speaking audience and gave it a strong association with fire. The alternative name bonzo comes from the same era, because the Buddhist monks who immolated themselves were often referred to by the term bonze in English literature prior to the mid-20th century...
Bonzo! Most Americans think of that Ronald Reagan movie when we hear "Bonzo." Perhaps some think of Led Zeppelin. But fiery suicide, to make a political point? That's new to me.

A capstone is "a stone that caps or crowns." I'm quoting the OED, where we can see the metaphorical use of the word goes back to 1685: "Here is the fair occasion... to put the cap-stone upon his other perfections" (tr. B. Gracián y Morales Courtiers Oracle 150). By the way, the Great Pyramid is missing its capstone. Ever notice? Makes you want to put an eye there:



Okay, now what about grasping at straws? What's the image there? I realize I've always pictured ants trying to get out of water by climbing onto some bit of straw. Focusing on that for the first time, I can see that grasping at straws would probably work for an ant. You're supposed to picture a human being trying to escape drowning and desperately grasping at anything, no matter how absurdly useless it is. Wiktionary tells me that the image goes back Thomas More, "Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation" (1534). More is talking about people who will not seek the "comfort" of God. Some of them are completely lethargic — "so drowned in sorrow that they fall into a careless deadly dullness." Others are so "testy" and "fuming" that you don't even want to talk to them. Then there are people who do want to be comforted. Some of them "seek for worldly comfort":
He who in tribulation turneth himself unto worldly vanities, to get help and comfort from them, fareth like a man who in peril of drowning catcheth whatsoever cometh next to hand, and that holdeth he fast, be it never so simple a stick. But then that helpeth him not, for he draweth that stick down under the water with him, and there they lie both drowned together. So surely, if we accustom ourselves to put our trust of comfort in the delight of these childish worldly things, God shall for that foul fault suffer our tribulation to grow so great that all the pleasures of this world shall never bear us up, but all our childish pleasure shall drown with us in the depth of tribulation.
You know, that eye on the pyramid, as seen on the Great Seal of the United States dollar bill is the "Eye of Providence":
On the seal, the Eye is surrounded by the words Annuit Cœptis, meaning "He approves (or has approved) [our] undertakings", and Novus Ordo Seclorum, meaning "New Order of the Ages". The Eye is positioned above an unfinished pyramid with thirteen steps, representing the original thirteen states and the future growth of the country. The lowest level of the pyramid shows the year 1776 in Roman numerals. The combined implication is that the Eye, or God, favors the prosperity of the United States.
Have we gone so deeply into the mixed metaphor that it's all coming together somehow?

23 comments:

Carl Vero said...

Mixed metaphors are a curse on colloquialism, eliciting so many associations that real connections become obtuse.
To be plain: Obama's reign and campaign go mainly down the drain. As the shrilly season replaces the silly season, his handlers are working double shifts mending and bending his acts. Hillary is begging Russia to return that useful reset-button gadget. Some have lost their enthusiasm, and after the White House Easter Egg Roll 2012, April 9, there will be a head roll. There are no tickets to the latter, which promises to get more entertaining than the former. Meanwhile, here's something Obama never said: “Become more than a community organizer? I don't consider it. I'm a capable community organizer; I might easily make a bad Senator, and certainly an even worse President. People have had this experience.”

Tyrone Slothrop said...

This is what "Bonzo" brings to mind for me.

Fen said...

Online subscriptions is a stupid model when everyone else is giving it away for free.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

Capstones.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

Grasping at straws.

EDH said...

Last statement sent to Sentinel from self-immolation victim

Copyright Keene Publishing Corporation © 2011 Posted: Thursday, June 16, 2011 12:49 pm

Editor's note: On Thursday morning, June 16, The Sentinel received a "last statement" via mail from a man who insinuated that he planned to set himself on fire in front of the Cheshire County Court House, and an explanation of why he intended to do so. Through further reporting, The Sentinel is confident this is from the victim of Wednesday afternoon's fire, although police have not yet received confirmation of his identity. The 15-page statement is printed in full, except for two redacted items: The names of the man's mother and his three children. Details will be posted as they become available.

Last Statement
by Tom Ball

A man walks up to the main door of the Keene N.H. County courthouse, douses himself with gasoline and lights a match. And everyone wants to know why.

Apparently the old general was right. Death is not the worst of evil.

I am due in court the end of the month. The ex-wife lawyer wants me jailed for back child support. The amount ranges from $2,200. to $3,000. depending on who you ask. Not big money after being separated over ten years and unemployed for the last two. But I do owe it. If I show up for court without the money and the lawyer say jail, then the judge will have the bailiff take me into custody. There really are no surprises on how the system works once you know how it actually works. And it does not work anything like they taught you in high school history or civics class.

I could have made a phone call or two and borrowed the money. But I am done being bullied for being a man. I cannot believe these people in Washington are so stupid to think they can govern Americans with an iron fist. Twenty-five years ago, the federal government declared war on men. It is time now to see how committed they are to their cause. It is time, boys, to give them a taste of war.

There are two kinds of bureaucrats you need to know; the ones that say and the ones that do. The bridge between them is something I call The Second Set of Books. I have some figures of the success of their labors. You and I are in these numbers, as well as our spouses and children. But first let me tell you how I ended up in this rabbit hole.


[Rest of statement continued at link above, NOT The Sentinel's website, where "Subscription Required".

Notice, The Sentinel tries to claim a copyright on this man's "Last Statement". Talk about putting a "capstone" on "grasping at straws".
]

America's Politico said...

Predictions:

1. SCOTUS will support the ObamaCare act. This will help the POTUS win the re-election.

2. GOPers Santorum and Gingrich will form a unity ticket. GOP will thus lose the 2012 Presidential election. In 2014, Romney will become Independent but never run again.

3. House will go for GOP. Pelosi is back!

4. Senate will extend the lead by 4 seats. Reid forever!

AllieOop said...

How does one go about dissecting a mIxed metaphor? Does one filet it?

Just a bit humor, Ann.

chickenlittle said...

?

AllieOop said...

It's a joke about your joke from yesterday Chickie, go back to the thread in question.

Humor includes laughing at ourselves:)

chickenlittle said...

@Allie, actually, my question mark was meant to ask Althouse why she doesn't mention the eye at the certain of UW-Madison's seal.

But now I see how following on your comment it looked like I was questioning you.

To explain yesterday's joke--after you first used the word "minion," I looked up its origin and saw its relation to "mignon." That associated "filet" which of course I needed to hook up to both female "filly" and Kleefisch.

I thought it worked. ;)

chickenlittle said...

"center" not "certain"

glenn said...

Dumb people trying to sound smart.

AllieOop said...

Well was very "cleaver" of you Chickie, funny how that bit of humor ended up in a rant by Ann.

It's all so confusing at times!

Ann Althouse said...

"actually, my question mark was meant to ask Althouse why she doesn't mention the eye at the certain of UW-Madison's seal"

1. It has nothing to do with any of the images in the original mixed metaphor. No capstone.

2. I've already blogged about Numen Lumen.

SGT Ted said...

I think its more of the type of self-immolation that happens to a protestor with a molotov cocktail when the lit rag comes out and ignites the gasoline as it pours onto the guy trying to throw it.

edutcher said...

Not a big fan of the WS, largely because it's run by those "big government" Conservatives, Bill Kristol and Frantic Freddie Barnes, but, yeah, a little better sentence structure would have helped oodles.

FWIW, I always thought grasping at straws was in relation to a drowning man.

Fen said...

Online subscriptions is a stupid model when everyone else is giving it away for free.

For a second there, I thought you were talking about sex, but marriage is a better defense against VD than an online subscription.

Lem said...

But fiery suicide, to make a political point? That's new to me.

I was going to say suicided bombers.. but then I remember their objective is to cause harm to others.. harming themselves is just a subterfuge.

chickenlittle said...

Althouse wrote regarding "numen lumen" 1. It has nothing to do with any of the images in the original mixed metaphor. No capstone.

Agree with no capstone. But you went on to focus on the eye:
On the seal, the Eye is surrounded by the words Annuit Cœptis, meaning "He approves (or has approved) [our] undertakings", and Novus Ordo Seclorum, meaning "New Order of the Ages".

That's what I was responding to.

BTW, your last link in your old blog post goes nowhere. Here's one that does: link

You seem a bit testy about the meaning of "numen lumen." Are there certain meanings that you wouldn't approve of?

Ralph L said...

It seems like everyone of consequence working inside the Beltway should be forced to leave after 10 years--or maybe we should just put them down.

Barnes went to my high school, graduating before I was born. McCain also went there two years before boarding at Episcopal High School when his father was stationed out of the DC area. Both schools are now coed and ridiculously expensive.

Where did the outer skin of the Pyramids end up? Chip's basement?

Immolation is only impressive when combustion is spontaneous. Otherwise, fetch the marshmallows.

edutcher said...

Ralph L said...

It seems like everyone of consequence working inside the Beltway should be forced to leave after 10 years--or maybe we should just put them down.

Now you're talking.

In addition to term limits for Congress, we're starting to see people talking about term limits for the Federal judiciary - a very perspicacious step seeing as how they haven't been the honest brokers the Framers envisioned for about a century.

In the same spirit, 10 years of Federal employment and out, serving Armed Forces exempted, sounds like a grand idea.

Megaera said...

Ahem. I know this is pedantry, but I can't help myself. Immolation actually has no relationship with fire: the word derives from the act of sprinkling a sacrificial victim with meal, and means specifically the act of dedicating some one or some thing for sacrifice. Burning never enters into the definition. As opposed to, eg, holocaust, which means a sacrifice (to be) consumed by fire.

leslyn said...

I was sure someone else would remark on this, but here goes. The Masons had great influence on our early symbolism, and explication of our symbolism should include those fundamental influences.