Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hold that stone

A couple of blogs ago I cited Bill McKibben’s book Deep
Economy. Actually, I never read it in the end, not least
because I was put off right at the start by his use of one
of the ugliest metaphors ever to gain currency. On the
first page he writes:

For most of human history, the two birds More and Better
roosted on the same branch. You could toss one stone and
hope to hit them both…

But the distinguishing feature of our moment is this: Better
has flown a few trees over to make her nest. That changes
everything. Now, if you’ve got the stone of your own life, or
your own society, gripped in your hand, you have to choose
between them. It’s More or Better.

It’s a great point McKibben’s making, but what a crass
way of putting it. The ‘kill two birds with one stone’
metaphor has no place in civilized discourse. Just think
about the image you’re creating when you use it and
you’ll see what I mean. For years I've been campaigning
for phrases to replace it. When she was about 12 or 13
my daughter suggested ‘hang two socks with one peg,’
which totally does the business without generating an
unpleasant image; I also like ‘sew two buttons with one
thread.’ Further suggestions are welcome, and while
we’re at it, ‘no room to swing a cat’ has got to go too.


kura said...

You're utterly right to deplore that nauseating metaphor.
The director of the Karori Bird Sanctuary (or Zealandia as it's portentously named these days) proudly announced that some major proposed development to that institution would "kill two birds with one stone". I'm sure he never saw anything awry in his choice of term.

SeaJay said...

hit two thumbs with one good..
correct two eyes with one pair of glasses..better..