Thursday, February 22, 2007

Hard Times

Dead metaphors are everywhere in our bountiful English language, and they are not the same as trite or overused metaphors. He had the heart of a lion is trite because it is overused. Something like "windfall" is not because we are too far from the rural life -- and orchards; and wind knocking down fruit -- for it to conjure up a mental picture. It's a dead metaphor, so dead that it is now just another word and a perfectly good one.

Thus, is "slippery slope" too trite for use? It's not dead. Who has not fallen on his or her prat in living memory? (Pratfall means fall on your ass: not exactly a dead metaphor but certainly still somehow a resonant and delicious word.) I would say slip/slope is not too trite to bear because it is still apt, still captures that sense of going too close to the edge -- which is gradual; which does not even seem to be an edge -- and colliding, as it were, with The Bitch Goddess, Gravity.

My slippery slope of the moment? I have just spent nearly three hours sorting through email -- killing, butchering even. Up until a couple weeks ago, the mighty servers of the University of San Francisco limited how many emails, read or unread, we could keep on the shelves of our inbox. Too many and you got a message you were approaching your limit. It was weed the garden or lose functionality. Given the number of things I had somehow heaped on the server in the sent file or in other folders, in recent years when I got to about 300 emails in my inbox, I was warned.

But then USF suddenly greatly increased our amount of personal storage, and unintentionally, as they made the change, they also dumped several hundred previously deleted emails back into my inbox.

So: Much greater server capacity for incoming emails, plus the return of old ones. Suddenly I've got a thousand emails *and no need to prune them.* Let them pile up like drifts of snow. No need to shovel them out today or tomorrow or ....

This way lies madness. This way lies important emails buried forever.

This is ... the slippery slope.

Today I drove my pitons into its face and crawled toward the light.

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