Puns and Metaphors


Bag with logo: “Metaphors be with you.” Image Source: Arnoldzwicky.org

Journalism and Academics have something in common: the desire to look clever by using language in a novel and unique way.  Journalists use the “pun” while Academics use the “metaphor.”

In Journalism, at least at the local and national level, the goal is to (mostly) inform.  As we’ve moved into more of a politically charged climate and as ratings have become more and more important, the strict neutrality and objectivity of the (mainstream) news media has become less and less stringent, allowing certain stations to take on a (or be perceived as having) an ideological bent (Walter Cronkite was a different newsperson than Dan Rather who is a different newsperson than David Muir, but I digress).  One constant in the profession is that journalists like using the pun as a way to cleverly connect the audience with a story or use it to end a story (especially at the end of a telecast).  On national news, the puns tend to be more adroit, while on local news, the puns to tend towards the groan-worthy.  The various morning shows seem to feature a mix of adroit and groan-worthy puns.

I relate this because as I do more and more reading in the field of pure academics, I’m noticing similarities between the two professions.  Instead of the pun, academics prefer the metaphor: we prefer linking an idea to some other thing or idea that has come before or is the purvey of another field and wrapping our ideas, theories, and concepts in the shell of another idea.  The easiest way that I can describe this is Einstein’s conception of space-time.  We liken it to a “rubber-sheet” and gravity acts like “balls” rolling on the sheet, creating “distortions” in the very fabric of space-time.  Now, I would argue that we need that level of abstraction because most of us don’t have the mathematical ability to follow Einstein’s equations and proofs.  However, even in the field of English, I find that we use similar “metaphors” to describe our theories.

I’m not opposed to the use of metaphors, per se, and sometimes I like the challenge of figuring our (like a detective) what metaphor that the author is using to describe his/her theories.  My problem, like the journalistic puns that are groan-worthy, is that many authors use the metaphor to appear clever and make their articles so dense with metaphors and tortured syntax that it obfuscates rather than enlightens.  There seems to be a notion that if it is scholarly, it must be dense and hard to read, when in fact, the opposite should be the case.  Einstein was a smart man, but without the ability for the general public to understand his idea, we wouldn’t have an accurate perception of space-time.  I would argue that scholars need to do the same: simplify and explain rather than be dense and rich in metaphors just to show off their knowledge.

In my opinion, it is much harder to simply explain a difficult concept than it is to make a simple concept seem difficult.


Reaction Videos


Two ladies reacting (laughing) at a video of dancers. Image Source: blogs.wsj.com

I’ve recently (since last year) become enamored with “reaction videos” on YouTube.  This is a sub-genre where people watch various media (usually trailers) and film their reactions to them and then usually they give some sort of impression of what they think after the trailer & reaction is over.

Usually YouTubers do the: 1) because trailers are short (generally anywhere from 2-3 mins. long), 2) because they don’t generally run afoul of copyright laws per se as the works are copyrighted, but the whole goal of a trailer is to be a sort of “commercial” for the movie, game, or whatever media, so generally speaking, publicity and legal departments are okay with the sharing, reediting, and remixing of the trailers (longer content is trickier as you have to limit your use to small clips of the content), and 3) they’re a popular sub-genre on YouTube.  They can bring in tens of thousands of views for really well done reactions and can help a fledging YouTube “channel” get off the ground or stabilize the viewership (& add new subscribers to a mid-sized channel).

The process is fairly simple–I’ve thought about, but so far, discarded the idea of doing reaction videos myself and posting them to YouTube as you really only need picture-in-picture software as most smartphones and laptops have the other necessary equipment (video recording, audio recording, and video editing).  The iPhone has all of that and I’m pretty sure Android and Google phones have them as well.  If you interested in a slightly more better set up, be sure to visit the following link for more information on making a reaction video: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/how-to-make-reaction-video/

The reason why I’m writing a blog about this is two-fold.  Well, actually tri-fold, but I’ll get to that in a minute.  1) I would like to start doing scholarship on this particular sub-genre.  I’m going to try to see if I can’t somehow pick a reaction/group of reactions and break down some of the rhetorical implications of what is going on in the video.  I have Narratology class coming up in the Fall, and while I know that I probably won’t get to pick movies and TV shows to do, if at all possible, I’m going to see if I can’t find some way to work a reaction video into the scholarship (paper, discussion post topic, whatever) and then see if I can build off that, 2) I think that I’m going to assign this as some sort of project in my freshman classes.  I haven’t decided if I’m going to make it a major project, or as something that we do along the way (like a two-week project that we do in addition to the normal classwork), but I’d like to have the students get comfortable with “producing” using video/audio techniques and understand the rhetorical implications behind their choices, and 3) (maybe) I’d like to actually add in reaction videos for this blog (& YouTube) for things like E3 videos and Comic-Con trailers (& Super Bowl trailers/commercials).  I haven’t decided if I’m “going to go there,” but if I decide to do so, then that would be the obvious places to start (& as they happen yearly, it wouldn’t mean too much of a time investment for me).

I’ll consider it.  In the meantime, here is a trailer reaction to the upcoming movie, “IT” by Stephen King that is particularly creepy.  The YouTuber is Grace and her channel is one where I watch content regularly.  Here is her Reaction to the IT “Teaser” Trailer and here is her Reaction to the IT “Official” Trailer.  Hope you enjoy!  P.S.  This reaction IS for a HORROR movie–you have been warned!