Midweek Semantic Snobbery

My semantic sensibilities are seriously attuned to misuses of metaphors, especially when speakers mistakenly mix them.

This can be a problem for me since my knowledge of current events comes mainly through ESPN’s range of programming.  I tune in at various points throughout the day to catch up on what really matters in the world.  I wince, however, at every misspelling in the newsfeed at the bottom of the screen and groan at every grammatical gaffe.

Though some do exist, verbally dextrous sportswriters and television analysts are few and far between.  On a morning program, I recently heard reference made to someone throwing a monkey wrench into the equation. 


I laughed at that one and thought immediately of Sammy Sosa’s mixture of congratulatory metaphors.  Near the end of the medically enhanced home run race of 1998, Sosa said of his awe at Mark McGwire that all he could do was take off his hat and hand it to him. 

Come again?

Perhaps the most abused metaphor involves my favorite dessert—pudding.  There are few puddings I don’t like.  My favorites are butterscotch and chocolate, and my mom makes an amazing rice pudding.

The common offense occurs when one states that “the proof is in the pudding.”  It isn’t.  The proof of the pudding is in the eating.  That is, one confirms the quality of the pudding by eating it.

I recently was sent over the edge, puddin’-wise, by a basketball analyst.  He stated that the Miami Heat are “going to have to dig into the pudding to find the proof.”


One does not dig into a pudding, scavenging around in search for proof.  Proof of what?  There’s no need to ruin a perfectly good pudding and make a mess of things.  Simply eat the pudding to determine its quality.

Mind your metaphors, friends.  Pudding is for eating.  Therein is its proof.

12 thoughts on “Midweek Semantic Snobbery

  1. Dan Reid

    “Going to have to dig into the pudding to find the proof.” I love it!

    I recall Lee Ryken commenting several years ago that some of the best writing in journalism is in sports journalism, such as in Sports Illustrated. I was glad to hear it, though I seldom read the genre. Television and radio sports journalism sure give us lots of hoots!

    1. timgombis

      Indeed, Dan, I’d distinguish between sportswriters–and there are some great ones–and those who talk on TV and radio. Typically the latter are less given to careful expression and have more opportunities to demonstrate their abilities.

  2. Alex

    “It’s all downhill from here!”

    Sometimes used to suggest the next phase will be particularly “rough”; other times to suggest it will be “smooth” (to use metaphors to describe metaphors!). The funny thing about this is that they mean the exact opposite!

  3. Wesman

    I’ve appreciated your grammatical prowess almost as much your theological insight, but it’s time for you to move on from the outdated practice of typing two spaces after a period. I know it’s difficult. I hung on to this one for too long, but it’s such a relief when I finally gave in. You can do it, Tim!

    1. timgombis

      I’m torn about that one, Wesman. I’m too used to it in writing papers, etc., so the practice is reflected in my posts. But I’m slowly making a transition–or, perhaps, dipping my toe into the single-spaced waters. In my comments, I use a single space, along with FB comments.

      It’s a slow turning.

  4. Dave

    Just as some people like to spike the punch – maybe some also spike the pudding ? Hence “the proof is in the pudding”

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