or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, March 14, 2005

Shovel it on

A news story this weekend contained perhaps the oddest pair of conjoined metaphors I've ever seen:

"Discount airline Jetsgo was burning money in spades when the Montreal carrier pulled the plug early yesterday...."

Burning money in spades? Wouldn't it have been easier to burn the money in shovels, which unlike flat-bladed spades are scooped?

The problem, of course, is that even though the idiomatic meaning of "in spades" is appropriate, the literal meaning can't help but come to the fore. It works as a pure idiom in such expressions as "She gave it to him, in spades", or the mildly clever CNN.com headline "Ireland's spuds are back in spades", but juxtaposed with another vivid idiom, "burning money", it's jarring. Almost anything would have been better than "in spades". "Hand over fist" would have been a slight improvement. Even better, "by the bucketful". The story's lead shows what happens when writers use metaphors reflexively, without thinking them through.


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