Short post, short podcast.
In his 1945 essay, Politics and the English language, George Orwell talked about dying metaphors.
A newly invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a visual image, while on the 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 a loss of vividness. But 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.
Politics and the English Language, 1945.
I remember these words whenever I come across a metaphor with particular power, as in this Mark Twain comment on sentence length.
At times he may indulge himself with a long one, but he will make sure there are no folds in it, no vaguenesses, no parenthetical interruptions of its view as a whole; when he has done with it, it won’t be a sea-serpent with half of its arches under the water; it will be a torch-light procession.
Quoted in The Economist Style Guide.
How much of your writing is the sea serpent, how much the torch-lit procession?
As we know, science has more recently discovered what writers (and particularly poets) have known all along. A powerful metaphor lights up the brain in a way that little else does.
A sea serpent versus a torch-lit procession.
What fabulous language.