Monthly Archives: June 2015

Jiggery-Pokery and Fruits of our Labors

The past two weeks have been quite historic in terms of political and social upheaval and Supreme Court decisions. Nine African-Americans were tragically killed during a Bible study session in Charleston, South Carolina, leading to nation-wide calls to take down the Confederate battle flag from all public buildings. The Supreme Court handed down two landmark decisions, one making the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) the law of the land, and also making same-sex marriage legal under federal law.

I have been reading the reports in the news looking for examples of new and interesting metaphor usage. However, there were none that warranted a complete blog post. I must mention that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia called the Obamacare ruling “interpretive jiggery-pokery.” I was tempted to do a post on this wonderful phrase, but I am afraid that I have no idea what he is talking about.   I was also tempted to analyze the metaphors used in President Obama’s wonderful eulogy for Clementa Pinckney, a pastor and state representative killed in the Charleston attack, but, out of respect for the victims and the families of that horrible tragedy, I will not subject the eulogy to an academic analysis at this time. You can read the full text here if you would like to see President Obama’s soaring rhetoric in the eulogy.

Instead, today I would like to call your attention to another phrase I heard on the news lately, of an action in Congress that would not “bear fruit” due to public opposition. With summer in full swing, farmers’ markets are selling amazing fruits and vegetables these days. Even if you are not a gardener, most people would admit nothing tastes better than fruit picked fresh from its orchard’s branches, or a vegetable picked fresh from the garden. In a salute to our local farmers who work so hard to bring us fresh fruit and vegetables, here are a few metaphors based on terms used to describe growing fruit in orchards. Processes and results of growing fruit trees are used to describe political activities. The condition and flavor of certain fruits can be used to describe people or attitudes toward situations.

blog - fruit - apple orchardfruit

One plants a fruit tree hoping it will bear fruit year after year. If not, the tree is fruitless. In politics, a successful operation is said to bear fruit; a failed operation or pointless activity is said to be fruitless.

Example: If a candidate wins an election, the party can celebrate the fruits of their labors to have that person elected.


Example: Everyone thought it was fruitless to support a candidate who had confessed to not paying his taxes since the people would not elect him if they could not trust him.

blog - fruit - cherriescherry pick

Not all fruits are ripe at the same time. The ripe fruits must be picked while the others remain on the tree. In politics, cherry picking means some parts of proposals, laws or documents are considered while others are left out.

Example: Some of the senators just cherry picked the parts of the new bill they wanted to complain about and eliminate, while leaving others unmentioned.

blog - fruit - Red_Applebad apple

A bad person is sometimes referred to as a bad apple, i.e., one that has spoiled and could possible spoil other apples nearby.

Example: That lobbyist who was arrested and jailed for fraud was not typical; he was just a bad apple in the group of honest workers.

sour grapes

If grapes are beginning to spoil, their sweet taste will turn sour. If people complain about something, they can be said to have sour grapes.

Example: We hope the candidate who loses the election does not have sour grapes and complain too much. He or she needs to stay positive and look forward to the next election.

blog - fruit - grapestransplants

A transplant is a small vegetable plant or tree grown from a seed and later moved to the field when it is older and stronger. In social terms, a transplant is a person who moves from one area of the country to another.

Example: Transplants from conservative parts of the country tend to vote Republican no matter where they move.

Next time: The 4th of July!

Fathers’ Day Metaphors

Happy Fathers’ Day! I hope all the fathers reading my blog are having a great day filled with family and friends.

Today I thought I would highlight a few common metaphors based on the idea of fatherhood. Unfortunately, there are not many metaphors in politics based on motherhood. I believe this is because of the sad truth that politics and government have been male-dominated domains for thousands of years. For example, we often refer to the people who wrote the American Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as the Founding Fathers because, indeed, they were all men. George Washington, the army general whose leadership helped us win the Revolutionary War against the British, and became our first president, is also considered as the Father of our Country.   We even have more metaphors based on uncles than we do for mothers or aunts. With apologies to the great women leaders of the United States, past and present, here are a few metaphors based on fatherhood.

George Washington - portrait by Gilbert Stuart, 1797
George Washington – portrait by Gilbert Stuart, 1797


Historically, the father of a family is usually the person who has the most authority and control in the family. Metaphorically, a father is someone who invents or develops something that becomes commonly used in society.

Example: In the 1950s, President Eisenhower developed the state highways now used all over the country. Today he is considered the father of the modern interstate highway system.

The signing of the Declaration of Independence, painting by John Trumbull, 1819
The signing of the Declaration of Independence, painting by John Trumbull, 1819

founding fathers/forefathers

Former presidents such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are often called the founding fathers or forefathers of the United States because of their roles in breaking away from England and forming a new country.

Example: Supreme Court justices must often interpret the Constitution based on the intentions of the forefathers to provide justice to all Americans.

World War I Army recruiting poster
World War I Army recruiting poster

Uncle Sam

An uncle is a brother of one’s father or mother. As such, an uncle is usually close to the family and provides additional support. The roles of uncles in politics can be quite unusual. A common way of referring to the United States government is to call it “Uncle Sam.” The origin of this name is obscure, but one story is that during the War of 1812, a man named Sam Wilson supplied meat to the troops. The soldiers allegedly referred to him as Uncle Sam, since the initials U.S. also stood for the United States. A popular recruiting poster in World War I featured a man dressed in red, white and blue who represented Uncle Sam increased the popularity of this idea.

Example: Nobody in America likes the idea of Uncle Sam raising his or her taxes.

crazy uncle

Many families have relatives who are a little eccentric or have unusual behavior. A so-called crazy uncle is someone who is part of the family but who may be embarrassing at family gatherings. In politics, a crazy uncle is someone who causes trouble for the popularity or acceptance of a politician.

Example: In the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama’s former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who made some controversial anti-American speeches, was considered by some critics to be Obama’s crazy uncle.

cry uncle

In wrestling games played by American children, one child may pin the other child to the ground. The dominant child may ask the other child to “say uncle” or “cry uncle” which is a cue that the other child loses the game and gives up, in which case the second child must yell “uncle” before he is let up off the ground. In popular terms, to cry uncle means to surrender, give up or merely complain about an unfair situation.

Example: In American presidential politics, third-party candidates may cry uncle if they are excluded from debates and national media coverage.

blog - fathers - inherit Diamond_District_Houseinherit/inheritance

When a son or daughter receives money or land from a parent when that parent passes away, this is called an inheritance. In a monarchy, the oldest son, a prince, usually inherits the kingship from his father, the king. In American politics, a president is said to inherit the problems of the previous administration when he or she takes office.

Example: In 2009, Barack Obama inherited a serious economic crisis when he took office.

heir apparent

Someone who inherits money or land from parents or grandparents is also called an heir. An heir apparent is someone who seems to be the sole heir in a family but it is not certain. In politics, an heir apparent is a politician who is set to become the next leader of a political party or special interest group.

Example: In 2012, when Mitt Romney won the Republican nomination for presidency, he was considered the heir apparent to lead the Republican Party for the next four years. However, he lost the election to Barack Obama.

Next time: TBA

Flag Day Metaphors

This coming Sunday, June 14, 2015, is Flag Day. It is a day that recognizes the adoption of the national flag on June 14, 1777. Of course, the first flag designed by the famous Betsy Ross only had 13 stars (and 13 stripes) representing the 13 colonies – soon to be the first 13 states of the United States when the government was formed a decade later.

blog - flags - 13 colonies


Flags are symbols of the patriotism we have for our countries.  We think of flags mostly to represent all of the countries of the world. However, flags have been used for centuries to represent aristocratic families, states, counties, armies or military units.   When used to represent armies in a battle, the flags carry great importance to those fighting in that war. Metaphorically, military banners and flags are used to describe certain aspects of politics. In honor of Flag Day this year, I offer a few examples of metaphors based on military flags.

marching under a flag

Historically, each army carried a flag of its country or particular military division. Soldiers would then march under the flag as they went into battle. In common terms, any group of people united to achieve a common goal may be described as marching under the same flag.

Example: Conservative Republicans often march under the flag of low government spending.

Flags of the members of the United Nations at the UN building in New York City
Flags of the members of the United Nations at the UN building in New York City

unflagging support

Someone who carries the flag of an army is especially devoted to the cause. If the flag falls to the ground, this indicates that the army may be losing the battle. In metaphorical terms, someone with unflagging support is especially devoted to the goals of the project.

Example: In the 2012 election, some progressives who had given Barack Obama unflagging support in the previous election began to lose confidence in him since he had failed to enact many progressive laws.


A flag is also called a standard in some cases. Thus the person is carries the flag may be called a standard-bearer. Metaphorically, a standard-bearer is a person who has the highest amount of honesty and integrity in a group of people.

Example: President Bill Clinton was considered to be the standard-bearer of the Democratic Party until he was caught having an affair with his intern, Monica Lewinsky.

under the banner

A banner is a type of flag that is long and narrow. An army may also march under a banner. In common terms, a group of people may act together under a banner if they are working together to achieve a goal.

Example: The American people often get frustrated with politicians who claim to be working under the banner of helping everyone achieve the American dream when they are actually helping corporations get richer.

The 3rd Infantry Division unfurling a flag over the Pentagon two days after the 9/11 attacks.
The 3rd Infantry Division unfurling a flag over the Pentagon two days after the 9/11 attacks.

unfurled his own thoughts

When a flag is unrolled, we may also say that it is unfurled. Ideas or words may also be unfurled as a person speaks.

Example: A good presidential candidate will unfurl his or her own thoughts carefully during a debate.





Next time: Fathers’ Day