These days you can see the rivets popping and beams buckling in Surry Hills as — following the failure of Howard’s numbers to improve after the Budget — the good ship News changes course. Take a look at today’s front page, with the lead given over to coverage of Rudd’s new initiative — a promise to make cheaper promises than the Coalition — written even-handedly by George Megalogenis, rather than one of the attack dogs.

As with the sudden virtual disappearance of the topic of climate change from the editorials — totally unconnected, of course, with Rupert’s ex-cathedra pronouncement that henceforth climate scepticism will be left to Bolt, Piers and the other cranks in the toolbox — the change of direction is causing considerable difficulty. Take a look at the opening of Glenn Milne’s piece:

WHILE the Coalition back bench holds its collective breath and hopes for the slow-burn bounce of the budget to eventually kick-start their re-election chances, the smart heads inside the Liberal Party are agitating for an interim change of strategy from the top down.

Everyone mixes their metaphors occasionally, close to deadline but this would have to be a contender for the Worst Piece Of Writing In History Award. The first clause contains a rare double levelled mixed metaphor, the base being the ‘bounce’ that ‘burns slowly’, which unimaginable entity is then required to ‘kick-start’ something. That latter metaphor is uncompleted, with ‘chances’ — rather than, say, ‘motor’ being kick-started — which is permissible, but lame. The start of the clause — ‘collective breath’ — is also mixed (breath is, by definition, an individual thing) albeit one deadened by cliched use. ‘Eventually’ splits the infinitive, and is contradictory – ‘kick-start’ surely implies an immediate start (or is the slow-burn bounce sort of mooching around like Brando in The Wild One, intending to climb on the Harley of re-election chances and kick-start the thang in its own sweet time?).

In the second clause there is an ambiguous use of ‘top down’ (top of the party, or top of the strategy?) which metaphorical use of a positional term conflicts with a literal positional (in time) term (‘interim’). The second clause contains a rare mixed synecdoche (part for whole) with ‘heads’ ‘agitating’ – agitation, ie movement of objects, being difficult to perform without limbs.

Wow. Possible explanations: 1) prior heavy turps nudge – shome mishtake shurely? 2) helping the Oz’s campaign for traditional education by providing examples of bad, well, everything for English students? 3) resident English teach Imre Salusinszky was too busy getting wrong the election date of the political rounds he’s on to wield the red pencil.

Whatever, it surely indicates that, whatever threat Milne may appear to offer, he will surely trip over his feet before he gets anywhere near you.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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