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Latest Clichés: Skin and Haircuts

The latest Beltway clichés are beginning to irritate me and I can no longer resist the inclination to complain about them. “Put some skin in (the game)” brings up memories of falling and scraping knees, elbows, heads, and the like. 

This cliché replaces “ante up”, which replaced “cough up”, whose demises please no one more than me. “Put some skin in” is milder than “give a pound of flesh”, donated by Shakespeare but still it is pretty raw. “Ante up” comes from poker; it means literally to put more money in the game and hence is more fitting for the financial crisis than “putting in more skin” (unless, of course, you’ve been skinned by Bernie Madoff).

OK, the image is bad, so what is better? Let’s try “give/get a haircut”, as to give GM employees or AIG managers a haircut. Well, that isn’t a graphic image of an injury but then it doesn’t really imply a contribution to the cost of resurrecting our economic institutions. Hair cuts are something we all get on a regular basis and implies willingly giving up something we consider superfluous. It implies no kind of sacrifice at all which is the very point of these metaphors.

This is what comes of ignoring our poets and listening to the faces on radio and TV that talk faster than they think. Clichés, of course, are simply metaphors that catch on and are repeated ad nauseum by those who cannot come up with their own. I’m sure at least one poet in our midst has dreamed up a better metaphor than the ones that are morphing into clichés even as I click away now.

2 Responses to “Latest Clichés: Skin and Haircuts”

  1. Stargzer Says:

    “Let’s try “give/get a haircut”, as to give GM employees or AIG managers a haircut. Well, that isn’t a graphic image of an injury but then it doesn’t really imply a contribution to the cost of resurrecting our economic institutions.”

    Getting a haircut is having your locks shorn, and shearing a sheep is taking its fleece, so I think “fleeced” might be an appropriate description of our plight as taxpayers and investors.

  2. Betsy Riley Says:

    or something else that implies “natural consequences”.
    In the South folks sometimes say “I don’t have a dog in that race” to mean they are unaffected by or indifferent to the outcome.
    “Put your money where your mouth is” is more direct, as is “put up or shut up”.
    Give the managers a haircut is ridiculous, for the reasons you mentioned. Cut their golden parachutes maybe, or their safety nets. How about “hold them personally responsible” ?

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