Wow! I was planning to share a few common metaphors used to describe elections in my post this week. Instead I found myself struggling to keep up with the brutal, hyperbolic metaphors used to describe the domination of the elections by the Republicans last week. These metaphors are derived from our collective experiences of physical attacks, war and natural disasters.
First a few metaphors we hear about elections not related to the common metaphors of horse racing as discussed in the previous post.
Games and Sports
In a poker game or other gambling games, the amount of money that is risked is called the stakes. The stakes can be high or low depending on the game. In politics, any deal or negotiation between political parties or businesses may be referred to as a high stakes game.
Example: The 2014 midterm elections were a high stakes game for the U.S. economy.
In basketball, the game begins by the referee throwing the ball straight up in the air. This is called the toss up. The player who can reach and control the ball after the toss up will win the ball for his or her team. In common terms, any competition or election that might be one by any player or team may be called a toss up.
Example: Many governors’ races were toss-ups but most were won by Republicans.
Swings are popular games on a school playground. A child on a swing can push and pull on the chains until the swing goes back and forth going higher and higher in the air. Metaphorically, anything that can move back and forth in two directions might be described as swinging. In politics, a swing state is one in which the voters could elect either Republicans or Democrats depending on the candidates in each election. Importantly, the very notion of a swing state implies that there are only two principal parties in United States politics since swings only move in two directions; third-party candidates have difficulty raising money for campaigns, being invited to debates, and winning state or national elections.
Example: In 2014, Republicans won many midterm elections in red states, blue states and swing states.
Battles are the names of the primary engagements between armies in a war. Metaphorically, battles can also be fought verbally between people or groups. The notion of battle is commonly used in politics.
Example: The 2014 midterm elections turned into a battle for the control of the U.S. senate.
The land areas where battles are fought are called battlegrounds. In politics, states in which voters may vote for either Democrats or Republicans are called battleground states when candidates fight for the votes for their party.
Example: Senate races in the battleground states of New Hampshire and North Carolina were closely watched by television commentators on the night of the midterm elections.
The land where battles are fought between two armies is called the common ground. In an argument, the points on which both sides can agree may also be called the common ground.
Example: After the election, both Republicans and Democrats talked about finding common ground to work together for the next two years.
Fighting and boxing
In a fight, the two opponents can hit each other with great force, also known as beating one’s opponent. In sports and politics, the winning team or candidates may also be described as beating their opponents.
Example: The Republicans beat the Democrats in many elections for the House of Representatives, the Senate and state governor’s positions.
Another way to describe a person beating another person is to say that one drubs or gives a drubbing to another. In politics, candidates who lose elections by a large margin may be described as getting a drubbing.
Example: The Republicans gave the Democrats a severe drubbing in the 2014 midterm election.
A more hyperbolic term used to describe a loss in an election is a slaughter. The term slaughter was originally used to describe the process of killing and butchering a farm animal. In more common usage, a mass killing of animals or people may also be called a slaughter, as in a military battle with many casualties. In politics, when many different candidates from one party lose their elections, these defeats may be collectively described as a slaughter.
Example: Some cynical television commentators described the Democrats’ losses last week as a slaughter.
Similar to the notion of a slaughter, a bloodbath is an event in which many people are killed, as if there is so much blood one is bathing in it. This term is usually reserved to describe horrific battle scenes in a war. However, it may also be used to describe a series of tremendous losses by one political party. Oddly, the term bloodletting has a similar meaning despite having quite a different literal meaning. In the Middle Ages, doctors believed that draining people of their “bad blood” would cure them of their illnesses. This process was known as bloodletting. Metaphorically, the term bloodletting can also be used to describe a great loss by one political party.
Example: The Republicans gained six Senate seats in the midterm election bloodbath.
Earthquakes are caused by shifts in the earth’s crust or continental plates. These events may also be called seismic shifts. Tremors are smaller quakes that happen before or after a major earthquake. Metaphorically, earthquakes, seismic shifts and tremors can describe important events that happen in an organization that change the normal course of activities.
Example: It was an earthquake for the Democrats last Tuesday night when they lost so many seats in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
A landslide is similar to an avalanche, but usually indicates a great deal of land and mud falling rapidly down a hill. Metaphorically, a landslide is a large amount of something that happens quickly and forcefully.
Example: Republican Governor John Kasich was reelected in a landslide victory winning 64% of the vote.
A wave is a movement of water coming into a shore. Metaphorically, any strong movement in a process or actions may be called a wave. The most common metaphor used to describe the Republican victories last week was a wave.
Example: The 2014 midterm elections were described as a Republican wave of victories over Democratic candidates.
A tide is the movement of the ocean going out and coming in based on the moon’s gravitational pull. The term tide is used in a wide variety of metaphors indicating a powerful force such as a strong wave coming in to a shore. These metaphors include the phrases the tide of war, turning the tide, or turning back the tide.
Example: There was a strong tide of victories for the Republicans in the 2014 midterm elections.
A tsunami is a huge ocean wave that devastates coastal communities as happened in Indonesia and Thailand in 2004 and in Japan in 2011. Metaphorically, the word tsunami is used similarly to the term flood indicating a large amount of something happening quickly.
Example: The Republican tsunami in the midterm elections surprised everyone on the television news shows.
The term rout is derived from an old French word meaning a strong battlefield win during a war. Metaphorically a rout is a strong victory in sports or politics.
Example: President Obama was forced to admit that the midterm elections were a rout for the Republicans against the Democrats.
One final example is one of the strangest of all political metaphors…
Shellac is a type of furniture varnish or protective coating. It is famous for being long lasting because it is thick and requires many coats to apply it to the furniture. Treating furniture in this way is called giving it a shellacking. Metaphorically, to give a person a shellacking means that they are treated very roughly by someone else.
Example: The Republicans gave the Democrats a clear shellacking in the 2014 midterm elections.
Next time: Metaphors vs. Slang and Analogies