'Fusion' is a Star in 2006, Tops Most Popular Metaphor List

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The annual Top Ten List of Metaphors has been released for 2006. The list, gathered from various forms of media, shows the effect of current affairs and concerns on contemporary figurative language. At the top of the list is "fusion," chosen for its strong presence in current products and marketing.

The Metaphor Observatory has released their annual Top Ten List of Metaphors in the media for 2006. The list of metaphors, informally gathered from newscasts, products, music, advertisements and the press, shows how current social concerns are reflected in figurative language. Metaphors are judged for their accuracy, popularity, impact and relevance to the past year.

Topping this year's list is "fusion," which found itself in product names and slogans from hair and hair removal products through highway and snow vehicles. Among other metaphors appearing on this years list are "Stay the course" from President George Bush and "Foley Fallout," a headline from the Mark Foley scandal.

The Metaphor Observatory's list of top metaphors is chosen based on:

accuracy (ie: Does it make sense as a metaphor?)

popularity (ie: Did it catch on?)

impact (ie: Did it successfully communicate to its audience? )

relevance to the year in question (ie: Is it contemporary? ).

The Metaphor Observatory's Top Ten Metaphors for the year 2006:

1) fusion -- Thanks in part to mega-marketing by both Gillette and Ford, the superhot metaphor "fusion" tops this year's list hands down. Among the many other products credited for putting "fusion" in its place: Denny's D-Fusion Drinks, Herbal Essences Fruit Fusions Collection, the Hoover Fusion Cyclonic Upright Vacuum and Wow Wee's robotic "fusion of technology and personality." Fusion, today you are a star!

2) course -- Of course, we couldn't let George Bush's sea-weavery go unnoted. Ever since his decision to scuttle the "stay the course in Iraq" tub-thump in late October, newscasters have scrambled to salvage what they could with headlines like "changing the course in Iraq". Awarded posthumously the title "Catch Phrase of the Year" by the Global Language Monitor, "stay the course" is charted to join the president's precedent "road map to peace" in the navigational metaphor boneyard.

3)fallout -- Hitting every form of press from Three Mile Island all the way to Chernobyl was the negatively-charged article "Foley Fallout." The explosive headline was scattered across several networks in the U.S. and in blogs around the world, and lasted so long on CNN that they even changed the font to keep it fresh. Part of the currently trendy nuclear family of metaphors, "fallout" is the black sheep, associating itself with any story involving political scandal and its career-crushing repercussions. Fallout spends little time alone these days.

4) meltdown -- Metaphor hits the big screen this year and in a mammoth way. "Ice Age: The Meltdown" topped the box office in the spring, triggering a detectable rise in "meltdown" use this year. Le Glacier Dairy Queen's Chili Meltdown GrillBurger and Canadian Tire's summer Price Meltdown along with supercool anchor Anderson Cooper's feature "Melting Pot or Meltdown" helped this nucleaphor hit the critical masses in 2006.

5) bitch -- Though playing dead in various dialects as a spiteful person or strong woman, the "bitch" metaphor began littering the hip-hop world dog-years ago with the meaning (sexual) underling. In recent years, however, "bitch" has jumped the lingo fence of hip-hop and is doing tricks in other dialects. Just ask The Simpsons' old dawg Mr. Burns, who fetched a few raised eyebrows this spring with the primetime Sunday comeback "Dream on, bitch." Youthful pigskin-headed cell-mate Stewie Griffin has been known to bark out the odd bitch-equals-underling too, making this a top choice metaphor for mouthy characters of all ages and backgrounds.

6) fuel -- While gas prices spiked and let the air out of S.U.V. sales, energy drink sales were skyrocketing. Natural health pop-alike Mountain Dew Energy, first launched in 2002 in Canada, aptly decided to change its pitch slightly in 2006 becoming "Dew Fuel". Meanwhile, newswriters continued to inject "fuel" into headlines, firing off such titles as "Fuelling Poverty", "Black History Month: Does It Fuel Racism?" and "Fuelling the War in Iraq".

7) hybrid -- Hybrid vehicles enjoyed greater attention this year as drivers felt more pressure at the pumps. Ironically piggish in its etymology (a crossbreed between a wild boar and a tame sow), "hybrid" now signifies cleaner, sippier vehicular technology far removed from the rolling, swilling filth of its porcine roots. The nearly unstoppable movement of hybrids into the broader auto market assures us that this metaphor has legs, and a future worthy of investment. That's some pig.

8) chocolate -- New Orleans' mayor Ray Nagin spent a little time in political hot water early this year when he served up the scalding "It's time for us to rebuild New Orleans -- the one that should be a chocolate New Orleans." Sized up as racist and seized on by the unimpressed press, Nagin later retrofitted the recipe by claiming he was speaking of chocolate, (the hot beverage, especially the one made with milk, not water), and not chocolate (the candy bar, not made with milk, but it could be, too). He apologized for any confusion. Dissent soon enough melted away and Nagin was re-elected -- however his recipe for success this election contained measurably far less milk than it used to.

9) jazz -- This year's release of Diet Pepsi "Jazz" brings together three key elements: jazz, only one of a collection of music metaphors hitting the product-naming scene in recent years; New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz, on our minds since last year's devastation; and fusion, a popular form of jazz, and popular form of metaphor. Though popster Pepsi's product may itself one day fizz out, its name will remain an uncanny benchmark in contemporary metaphor.

10) blackjack - The new smart phone by Samsung with a name resembling its rival the BlackBerry. The trick here is that while gambling metaphors are due to rise in popularity, cell-phones and computers prefer to associate themselves with reliability rather than risk. If the BlackJack is dealt a blow from a pending trademark suit by BlackBerry, Samsung will have to hit the deck and shuffle along.

The complete article along with an abbreviated list can be found at http://metaphorobservatory.blogspot.com .

"The Top Ten List of Metaphors is entertaining, but it also has an anthropological and historical significance. A metaphor is born when we substitute one concept for another in order to convey an idea," said John Casnig, creator of The Metaphor Observatory. "We normally reach for concepts that are physically close at hand, usually found on our body or in our immediate environment.

"However, the media will choose metaphors based on concepts that are more familiar to everyone, such as important news or events. If these 'contemporary metaphors' are broadly accepted by the public, it is because they are reflecting what is foremost on people's minds," he added. "During baseball season, for example, baseball metaphors are frequently used. At any given time, according to The Metaphor Observatory, society's Freudian Slip is showing."

The Metaphor Observatory is an editorial blog "dedicated to detecting metaphor usage in contemporary media". It is directly attached to Knowgramming.com, an educational web site providing metaphor learning resources to roughly one million students, teachers and businesses annually.


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