Metaphorical Floors, Walls and Ceilings

We are all familiar with the floors and ceilings inside a house.  The concept of a ceiling is often used metaphorically as the upper limit of a process, while the floor is considered the lower limit of something.  The process of cleaning floors also lends itself to additional metaphors such as sweeping elections.

wall to wall

Some homes and offices have carpeting that covers the entire floor.  This is sometimes called wall-to-wall carpeting.  Metaphorically, anything that is wall to wall is considered to be very thorough of complete.  In politics, this phrase is sometimes used to describe television coverage of elections.

Example: Most cable news shows on TV have wall-to-wall coverage of presidential elections.


Wallpaper is a type of patterned wall covering used in many homes.  These wall coverings must cover an entire section of wall.  Metaphorically, the term wallpaper has two meanings.  One meaning of wallpaper is a photograph used as a background on a computer or a cellphone.  The other meaning is to completely cover something as in when many TV journalists are hired to report on a political event.

Example: In 2008, many types of Obama wallpapers were popular for home computers.

Example: During the Democratic and Republican conventions prior to a presidential election, these events are wallpapered with reporters from all over the world.


debt ceiling

The ceiling is the top of a room.  Metaphorically, a ceiling is an abstract limit to progress in a certain situation such as for taxes, the national debt, or success of minorities in business and government.

Example:) As the national debt has increased in the last few decades, members of Congress often debate whether they should raise the ceiling on the debt and borrow more money to pay for government programs.

glass ceiling

A glass ceiling is a term specifically used to describe the limits of minorities achieving important positions in business or government.

Example: When Hillary Clinton decided to run for president, many American women hoped she would break the glass ceiling and become the first female president.

call on the carpet

In a strange metaphor of unknown origin, to call someone on the carpet means to reprimand or punish someone for some action.  The original meaning probably arose from the fact that the boss of a company had the nicest office in the building, and to be on the carpet meant to be in the presence of the rich and powerful.

Example: During a high-tension presidential campaign, a candidate’s spokesperson must say the right words every day or else he or she may be called on the carpet by the candidate.

floor price/price floor

Being the opposite of a ceiling, the floor is the lowest part of a room.  Metaphorically, it can mean the lowest limit of a price or process.  It can used as floor price or price floor with the same meaning.

Example: Oil companies must adjust their profits if the floor price of gasoline drops more than they expect.



Everyone is familiar with using a broom to sweep a floor clean of dirt.  The action of sweeping is commonly used metaphorically to describe something that is done completely in one direction, as in a sports team winning all the games in a series called sweeping their opponent.  In politics, if a candidate gains the most votes in many areas, we might say that he or she has swept the areas.

Example: Republican candidates are popular in the American Midwest and in the South.  In fact, Republicans usually sweep many of the states in these areas.

sweeping bill/victory/changes

In another sense of sweep, one can use the term as an adjective to describe a complete action such as a sweeping victory, sweeping changes or a sweeping bill passed in Congress.

Example: The health care reform bill in 2010 did not bring sweeping changes but it did provide benefits for many Americans with limited health insurance.


Next time:  Whac-a-Mole!? Really?