Thursday, September 24, 2009

Boiling frogs ...

One of the pleasures of reading Kevin Drum is that every so often he'll ponder a common metaphor or other figure of speech. Today, he ponders the frog-that-gets-poached -- the trope that holds that a frog placed in cold water that is then warmed will never notice it's boiling to death. It's not true, of course. After deploring the slow (so far) news week, he proposes this:

So let's pass some time talking instead about James Fallows' great obsession: boiling frogs. To start, here's an excerpt from a piece Paul Krugman wrote a couple of months ago:

I'm referring, of course, to the proverbial frog that, placed in a pot of cold water that is gradually heated, never realizes the danger it's in and is boiled alive. Real frogs will, in fact, jump out of the pot — but never mind. The hypothetical boiled frog is a useful metaphor for a very real problem: the difficulty of responding to disasters that creep up on you a bit at a time.

Italics mine. And Krugman is right: even though it's untrue that frogs will mindlessly poach themselves to death if you're careful to turn up the temperature on them slowly, it's a useful metaphor.
A fun excursion; it's worth checking out.

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