Wordnerdery Sue Horner’s monthly tips on words and ways to reach readers – April 2021

Issue 98 - April 2021

Like stepping on Lego and more COVID-19 analogies

Lego image by lean2succes and Pixabay.
Maybe you’ve noticed this about the pandemic, too: People speaking about it are trying to make it easy to understand. Or, sometimes, they’re trying to make a point about actions that are or are not working.

Want to explain how the virus works or clear up confusion about vaccination? Try an analogy, which shows how two things are alike. A metaphor is an analogy that makes the connection without using the words like or as.

“Your stories should use metaphors and analogies to explain complex terms and concepts,” says Shira Feder in Guide to Science Writing.

And how’s this for a timely way of making a case for using analogies? "Your report may be accurate, it may be clear, but, like a vaccine no one takes, if it does not move readers to thought or action, it’s like a medical mask worn hanging from one ear." – Poynter writing coach and author Roy Peter Clark.

Here are some examples of analogies that make a point or help make sense out of the COVID-19 confusion:

“This pandemic has us living in a constant guarded state. We’re constantly evaluating every environment we enter. Like walking into the kids’ playroom after a major Lego session...in bare feet. We’re on full alert and our senses are heightened and there will be no rest until the Lego is cleaned up. And we’ve been navigating this Lego minefield for a year now. While some idiots keep taking Lego out of the box and throwing it on the ground.” – Stewart Reynolds, aka Brittlestar

“Look at all these businesses doing ‘deep cleans’ now. What does that even mean? I call it the theatre of infection control.” – Sumon Chakrabarti, infectious disease specialist at Trillium Health Partners

“As patients began arriving, it felt like we were taking off in a plane we hadn’t finished building yet.” – Dr. Alex Enurah of the Medical Center of Aurora, Colorado

“Thrilled to see so many 40-somethings book their [AstraZeneca] vaccines but also completely baffled that it involves calling every local pharmacy, Shoppers Drug Mart, WalMart and Costco in town like they’re trying to find a Tickle Me Elmo in 1996.” – spotted on Twitter

Image of city fire by Olga1205 and Pixabay.

“It was unconscionable how many pharmacies were not stocked [with vaccines] in areas that were on fire [communities earmarked as hot spots]. If you were a fire chief and saw a map of where your fires were, and you almost purposely sent the help and the trucks into the neighbourhoods that were not on fire, would you not call that criminal?” – Dr. Andrew Boozary, executive director of health and social policy at University Health Network

“It's a glimpse at what the new normal might look like -- a perpetual game of whack-a-mole in which authorities race to contain the virus as it pops up in new places.” – Ivana Kottasová, CNN

“A regional approach like the colour-coded system that Ontario has used results in a dramatic movement of people from one region to another. If you look at how the new variants spread, they essentially travelled up Highway 11, all the way up north, in a pretty linear manner.” – Andrew Morris, infectious diseases specialist at University Health Network

“Without a doubt, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. And it will get lighter in the summer, but we’re still stuck in the tunnel.” – German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Which one did you like best? I love the “Tickle Me Elmo” one, which reminds me of yearly hunts for The Latest Thing (five copies of that video game spotted at Walmart in Square One!) my sons had to have.

Have you seen any other apt analogies explaining COVID-19? Please hit ‘reply’ and share.

Related reading:

Ann Wylie’s links about why, when and how to use metaphors

Like a ‘marshmallow test’ and more apt analogies related to COVID-19

Recently in the Red Jacket Diaries:

Why ‘How much does it cost?’ can be difficult to answer

Find the heart of your story with (many) questions

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