Daily Frolic 10: A cautionary tail

“What does ‘permeate’ mean, exactly?

“‘Permeate’? Pervade, penetrate, flow through, spread through – something along those lines.”

“What a tail!”

“A tale? But it’s not a tale: that’s what ‘permeate’ means.”

“No, no, not a tale – a tail; like in an animal.”

“A tail?”

“Yep – weird.”

“Look, you are not making any sense.”

“It’s not me – it’s your Guardian: they wrote about this bizarre tail, you see.”

“Where, where?”

“In The Guardian!”

“No, no, I mean show me the piece.”

“Here; look.”

“Mrs Hodge said she was going to ‘set a target’ to reduce the 30-point gulf between the percentage of students from upper-middle class families and those from working class families going on to higher education by 2010, as part of the government’s efforts to tackle ‘the long tail of underachievement’ permeating the system.”

 “Oh yes, yes, this infamous ‘long tail of underachievement’ rears its ugly head with great regularity – if you will excuse the mixed metaphor.”

“Mixed metaphor?”

“Aha. You know what a metaphor is, don’t you?”

“It’s like … like representing one thing through another?”

“More or less; we could use the image of dawn to refer to youth, for example. But people often mix their metaphors and come up with most peculiar concoctions.”

“Such as?”

“‘I can smell the rat, but I’ll nip him in the bud’, ‘She finally came out of her shell, spread her wings and blossomed’, ‘He is burning the midnight oil from both ends’, ‘We need to kick-start a sea-change in executive salaries’, ‘This haemorrhoid business is a millstone that can be a real pain in the neck’ – things like that. That’s exactly what they did in this sentence.”

“I s-e-e-e.”

“But this tail has other amazing properties. At least according to this professor of education; they quoted him in The Times Educational Supplement.”

 “Adopting the strategy could be the key to solving the problem of the long-tail of under-achievement that afflicts this country.”

 “Quite an affliction!”

“A-a-a-a, but there is a solution.”

“You mean they will stop mixing their metaphors?”

“No, no, no chance of that, I’m afraid. But listen to this – also from The Times Educational Supplement.”

“A number of measures have been put in place to try to overturn the log tail of boys’ underachievement.”

“Ha, ha, ha!”


4 thoughts on “Daily Frolic 10: A cautionary tail

  1. I keep envisioning a creature with a humungous tail trailing off the back of it. We do have the expression “burning the candle at both ends” over here on my side of the pond. And millstone, hemorrhoids, pain in the neck is funny. I can imagine someone with a giant hemorrhoid tied around their neck.


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