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October 22, 2003

BRAD DELONG DEMONSTRATES that he doesn't understand the meaning of the word "figurative."

Here's a helpful illustration of the difference:

Literal: Joan didn't want to put her silk blanket in her automatic dryer. Although it was January, she risked putting it on the clothesline. The winter wind gently tossed the lacy blanket.

Figurative: Joan looked out into her yard with great excitement. Overnight, a layer of snow had covered the ground. The winter wind gently tossed the lacy blanket.

In the second example, you see, there's not an actual lacy blanket, just a bunch of snow. But we use the term because it's evocative and adds color.

As my comment noted, Paul Krugman is now accusing Donald Luskin of stalking him in the literal, not figurative sense. I, on the other hand, was using the term in a figurative, not literal sense.

Tune in tomorrow for another episode of "English 101 for Economics Professors."

UPDATE: Justin Katz emails:

I propose these examples:

Figurative: Glenn Reynolds tore the heart out of Brad DeLong's argument.

Literal: Head thuggee Mola Ram tore the heart out of his human sacrifices in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Context makes it clear that you used "stalking" figuratively, having drawn the term from Luskin's column, which drew it from Krugman's then-figurative slur of "stalker-in-chief." In contrast, Krugman has, as you suggest, now shifted to the literal sense, actually specifying "stalked me personally" in his television appearance.

Yes, "actually stalked me personally" doesn't seem at all figurative to me. But I promise not to "personally" tear Brad DeLong's heart out in any literal sense.

And really, Temple of Doom? Can't we get an example from one of the good Indiana Jones movies? [LATER: Don't get upset, Justin, it was still a good example!]

ANOTHER UPDATE: When he's done with his English Comp homework, perhaps DeLong should look at these charges that Paul Krugman is, um, excessively close to certain anti-semitic Malaysian political figures.







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