Those revealing bungled metaphors

I try not to write in haste, but lately I’ve noticed my email correspondence has become untidy. None of us is adept at editing our own work. Those of us who are paid for our writing are especially obligated to consider readers’ interpretations of our every word. Misunderstandings can sometimes, though not always, be avoided through cautious review and editing. When I set something aside and reread it the next day, or even just a few hours later, I’m often able to catch and correct embarrassing mistakes.

After sending off an electronic communiqué this afternoon, I mulled over what I could remember of it while cooking an omelet. The message was part of a lighthearted ongoing discussion of crowdsourcing, networking, and the value of agents. Most readers focus on the basic ideas in a message, but I have an unfailing tendency to notice individual words. The phrasing of something I’d just written was nagging at me incessantly as I flipped the omelet. Suddenly I realized why.

In my expeditious email message, I’d committed the digital equivalent of blurting out that I didn’t want to hitch myself to someone’s wagon. What I was actually thinking was that I didn’t want to hitch my wagon to a person’s star, which would have been a more appropriate expression of the compliment I intended. My malapropism bungled metaphor wasn’t inaccurate, but I imagine it was confusing. I had to laugh, but the recipient of my email might not have been amused.

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

A friend (who shall remain nameless, unless she chooses to identify herself) recently dashed off the exclamation, “That’s my venue!” I knew she had meant to write that the subject of our conversation was her genre. I joked that it was a Freudian slip, because she has a scintillating personality that belongs on the stage.

To be honest, I’ve come to regard crowdsourcing as asking people to hitch themselves to a wagon of sorts. I’m not ruling it out as an innovative business model, but it needs considerable adjustment. To the email recipient who’s now scratching his head over my earlier blunder, “You read me right, either way, even though I didn’t realize what I’d said.”

One Reply to “Those revealing bungled metaphors”

  1. I love that word “untidy!” It’s so…I dunno, midwest. I noticed my email back and forth with you is way untidy, because it’s not my blog writing, and I figure I don’t have to spellcheck, use the appropriate word, capitalize, punctuate, etc etc. I see I was wrong. LOL. Ok, so I said venue instead of genre. See the way my mind works is I was thinking if my unfinished mystery (a genre) ever gets published, and if you, as my agent, get me on Oprah’s book list, and show, then my genre will become my venue! It’s lame, I know.

    As for crowdsourcing being like asking people to hitch themselves to a wagon of sorts, the only thing I would add, based on my most recent experience with so-called crowdsourcing, is that it’s harder to hitch yourself to a wagon that has stars in its eyes, as it were, because that wagon doesn’t really want much to do with anyone who would hitch themselves to it. Or is that just too very oblique?

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