On the Pleasures of Extended Metaphor

by F.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who loves an extended metaphor. After all, it’s a popular device in journalistic writing. Here’s a short review of a recent book on Starbucks:

Starbucks executives claim that the company’s customer-friendly, socially responsible policies amount to a new business model, and author Joseph A. Michelli generally agrees. Certainly the company has been innovative and wildly successful. Unfortunately, Michelli’s decaffeinated, artificially sweetened account of Starbuck’s retailing prowess often reads as though the writer is giving a boost to the company’s PR department – and the book cover design doesn’t help, with its Starbucks signature colors, logo (dutifully trademarked, as is every mention of every cup of Frappucino) and inset of the brown, corrugated paper the company uses for cupholders. Some of Michelli’s examples of Starbucks’ caring policies are banal – opening early or providing a free cup of tea are not major innovations, nor are they transferable examples. Yet the book usefully illustrates how far good service and community relations can go. Each chapter provides a readers’ guide and sidebars about how to apply Starbucks principles to your business. We recommend sipping it for applicable tips and interesting stories.

This is a common pattern: the writer uses words from a relevant subject domain for metaphors. Here, the topic of the book is coffee, so the writer uses words from that domain metaphorically–decaffinated, sipping, artificially sweetened. While too much of this can cloy, I have to say I’m a sucker for it. It makes me giggle everytime I read something like this.

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