Monday, March 14, 2005

On Extending a Metaphor too Far

A lengthy article in the LA Times about China’s struggle to maintain authoritarian control over an increasingly capitalist society uses a recent gold medalist's treatment by the Chinese authorities as an example of the way China dealing with this tension. Apparently, Tian Liang, a gold-medal diver from the 2004 Olympics is being prevented by the Chinese authorities from parleying his Olympic gold into a more spendable variety of gold. Naturally, the journalist offers some word play and crafts this paragraph:
Tian, a national symbol symbol of tremendous propaganda value, is swimming against a new political tide as he is made an example of for a policy on full display at the National People’s Congress which ends today.
Given that Tian Liang is a diver and not really a swimmer, maybe Mark Magnier could have gone with something like: “he has belly flopped in his attempt to profit,” or “he jumped head first into a shallow pool of scapegoating,” or “he got in too deep and over his head,” or something like that.

Of course, given that Tian Liang hasn’t been so successful in his attempts to make a profit off of his name, perhaps it is altogether fitting that the metaphor used to describe his attempts don't line up with his identity too well either.


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