Every Mixed Metaphor has its Fifteen Minutes in the Sun

by Kieran Healy on July 10, 2010

So, the World Cup’s most famous precognitive German cephalopod, Paul, has predicted from his tank in Oberhausen that Spain will beat Holland on Sunday, leading to various death threats, offers of state protection from the Spanish government, and a proliferation of calamari recipes circulating amongst my Dutch friends on FaceBook. All of which means, surely, that it really is true that some people are hoping that the fascist octopus has sung its swan song.

I’ll get my coat.



P O'Neill 07.10.10 at 5:23 pm

Paul did a serve a useful purpose in distracting the hacks from a series of “Netherlands once a colony of Spain!” articles.


Myles SG 07.10.10 at 6:57 pm

Paul did a serve a useful purpose in distracting the hacks from a series of “Netherlands once a colony of Spain!” articles.

To be pedantic, not a colony, but a possession.


ben 07.10.10 at 7:10 pm

A squid is not an octopus. Your Dutch friends should be ashamed.


qb 07.10.10 at 7:49 pm

Two pedantic posts in a row. But then, that’s why I read these threads.


Glen Tomkins 07.10.10 at 8:16 pm

You laugh

All of your pedantic scoffing at mixed metaphors is completely misdirected, because in actual fact that’s exactly how Paul does it. His predictions are based on handicapping information passed to him in the songs of swans.

“But wait”, you say, “no one has ever heard the siging of swans.” Well, of course, it follows that people who can’t hear swan singing would lack the ability to predict World Cup outcomes. The songs of swans are as subtle as the ties that bind the Fenris Wolf. Everything in this world that is really strong, such as handicapping information strong enough to predict a soccer game’s outcome, is as subtle as the singing of swans.

There are no bad metaphors, just bad poets.


tomslee 07.10.10 at 10:26 pm

“Two pedantic posts in a row”

– comments, not posts.


Substance McGravitas 07.10.10 at 11:23 pm

“tomslee” should be “Tomslee.”


Sufferin' Succotash 07.11.10 at 3:05 am

I could care less about who wins the World Cup just so long as the jackboot of mixed metaphors winds up in the dustbin of history where it belongs.


dr ngo 07.11.10 at 3:21 am

Presumably you mean you *couldn’t* care less . . .

Yours in Pedantry

dr ngo


Sufferin' Succotash 07.11.10 at 3:37 am

For the past 42 years I’ve assumed that it was the walrus that was Paul.
Now it turns out to the a frickin’ octopus.


bad Jim 07.11.10 at 7:35 am

Aber heute die Krake war noch einmal richtig, nicht wahr? 3-2.

Entonces, mañana ganará España la copa.


Kenny Easwaran 07.11.10 at 7:36 am

So wait, were they singing about a walrus’ garden?


Lucy Kemnitzer 07.11.10 at 3:40 pm

@3: but calamari recipes work fine with octopus.
@ see Language Log re “could care less.”


Jacque 07.11.10 at 5:25 pm

Not a walrus’s garden, an octopus’s garden.


Large Barge 07.11.10 at 5:53 pm

To contribute to the pedantry, “richtig sein” in fact only means “to be right” in the sense of “to be a correct answer”. Of a person, it’s “Recht haben” (“to have right”).

Also the word order is ALL WRONG! The adverbial has to go right after the finite verb! So very silly.

So there. Hum.


Timothy Scriven 07.12.10 at 6:48 am

No joke, I’ve got a friend who thinks they can predict worldcup games using the flash game “Robot unicorn attack”


I’m still unsure on their method.


NomadUK 07.12.10 at 7:29 am

@13: I really couldn’t care less how one tries to rationalise it: people who say ‘could care less’ simply aren’t thinking about what they are saying, and that’s just all there is to it.

And the implication from the postings there that this corruption is very likely American in origin surprises me not one bit.


bad Jim 07.13.10 at 6:18 am

Yeah, Large Barge, you got that right. (Makes a vulgar gesture). The Spanish is nearly as bad. It’s been forty years since I studied either.

Am I the only one for whom the infamous phrase summons the image of a bagpipe?


Bruce Wilder 08.04.10 at 3:19 am

Spain and the Netherlands were common possessions of the Hapsburg Emperor, Charles V, and his son, Phillip II of Spain, who styled themselves, among other things, Lord of the Netherlands. Charles V united in his person three major dynastic inheritances: the House of Hapsburg, the House of Valois-Burgundy (a cadet branch of the dynasty that ruled France), and the House of Trastámara of Crown of Castile-León & Aragon. This last inheritance, combined with the manifest infirmities of his mother, the daughter and heir of Ferdinand and Isabella and the legitimate sovereign Queen of Spain, made Charles V the first King of Spain (technically a co-ruler with his mother), but the 17 Provinces had been assembled by the Dukes of Burgundy and were a completely different heritage, from his father, Phillip the Handsome, Duke of Burgundy, and paternal grandfather, Maximillian I, Holy Roman Emperor. Upon his abdication, Charles V gave the Hapsburg Monarchy and leadership of the German Holy Roman Empire to his brother, Ferdinand I.

The 17 Provinces, leadership of which had been assembled by the Burgundians, were variously fiefs of France (most notably Flanders) or the Holy Roman Empire. None were ever fiefs of any Spainish Crown. In the course of the wars between France and Charles V, the French Kings had to cede sovereignty over Flanders, but reclaimed the Duchy of Burgundy, itself, as a vacant title. Charles V united the 17 Provinces with the Pragmatic Sanction of 1549, adopting the title, Lord of the Netherlands, which title his son, Philip II, would continue.

The northern 7 Provinces, as the United Provinces of the Netherlands, rebelled against Phillip II in the Dutch Revolt and Eighty Years War, establishing the ancestor of the modern nation-state of the Netherlands, the Dutch Republic. Phillip II and the Duke of Parma managed to subdue Flanders and most of the southern provinces, creating the “Spanish Netherlands”, ancestor, I suppose, of Belgium. The “Spanish Netherlands” were a continuation of Phillip’s domain as Lord of the Netherlands: the 17 Provinces, part of his Burgundian inheritance (but not actually part of the Duchy of Burgundy), and the term, “Spanish Netherlands”, reflects its defacto status within his personal domain, which had come to be identified with the Spanish Empire.

The bottom line is that the modern Netherlands was never a “colony” or possession or legally subordinate part of the nation-state of Spain.

I’m shocked, shocked that this thread got through three weeks without correction on this vitally important point.


Salient 08.04.10 at 4:58 am

The northern 7 Provinces, as the United Provinces of the Netherlands, rebelled against Phillip II in the Dutch Revolt and Eighty Years War…

Surely, my dear sir, you mean the Eighty Years’ War.

…Now what was all that about a colony?

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