George Orwell warned that when a metaphor gets mangled, that is a sure indication that the writer is not actually thinking about they are saying but is in a kind of auto-mode, not visualizing the idea but just stringing together words that sound good but don’t really mean anything. It is a sign that the writer lacks conviction or does not care. I have observed that this is true for me, that the times when I have been in the auto-mode are when I make errors or say something that makes little sense when examined closely.
I was reminded of this when I read that would-be president Herman Cain had sent out a tweet that said, “A rising tide lifts all boats. A sinking tide hurts the boats at the bottom. Dems don’t want minorities to know that”.
“A rising tide lifts all boats” makes sense literally and thus can be interpreted metaphorically. But what does “the boats at the bottom” mean? Boats don’t stack up, one on top of the other. They all float on the water side by side. When the tide recedes, all boats will get stuck in the mud. In fact, the bigger ones will run aground first since their depth below the waterline is greater. One could make a metaphor out of that to suggest that the rich and powerful are the ones who will be hurt first by an economic downturn, but not only is that not true, it is not be one that would be welcome to the ears of the one-percenters that Cain represents.