The Meaning of the ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Metaphor

The BBC website has a great meditation of the meaning of the ‘fiscal cliff’ metaphor: “The phrase “fiscal cliff” is now part of the American lexicon, describing the looming deadline when tax cuts expire and spending cuts kick in. But where did the term come from and is the image a helpful one?” For those overcome by vertigo when they hear the phrase, some useful alternatives include … fiscal slope, fiscal hill, fiscal diet, fiscal fast and, my personal favorite, fiscal curb.

Even More Aphorisms by Richard Krause

I’ve blogged about Richard Krause’s aphorisms twice before, first here and then here. His collection of epigrams Optical Biases is recently out from EyeCorner Press. Here’s what professor of American studies Camelia Elias has to say about Krause’s work: “Optical Biases makes us redesign our way of asking questions. [Krause’s] epigrams invite us to reconsider the significance of knowing the difference between what we want and what we need, what we ask for and what we get, and what we are and what we think. Optical Biases dislodges our perspectives and we catch our eyes gesturing at life’s movements and rhythmical patterns. We wink at our thoughts that celebrate us.” And here’s an epigram to get you started…

When you get old enough youth is beauty.

Roger Scruton on Aphorisms

The omniscient aphoristic archeologist Dave Lull uncovered this article by Roger Scruton in The American Spectator about “false aphorisms.” Scruton delivered a version of this piece at the first (and so far only) meeting of the World Aphorism Organization (WAO, pronounced WOW!) back in 2008. You can see a clip of his talk here and a debate on the aphoristic form among Scruton, John Lloyd and myself here. And lest we become too certain of our own opinions, Scruton quotes Ambrose Bierce’s definition of the brain:

An apparatus with which we think we think.

Aphorisms and Epigraphs

The omnivorous aphoristic hunter-gatherer Dave Lull flags up this piece in the Wall Street Journal by Rosemary Ahern about her book The Art of the Epigraph: How Great Books Begin. “The epigraph may pay tribute to a favorite writer or be the product of a chance encounter with a particularly resonant snippet of poetry or prose,” Ahern writes. “But it’s also an act of literary semaphore: an author signaling his themes and sensibility to readers inclined to respond to both.” Ahern gives three tips for choosing appropriate epigraphs: Be brief, be funny, be wise—not bad advice for composing aphorisms, either. And, of course, there are many aphorisms among the epigraphs she cites in her essay, including:

The secret of being a bore is to say everything. —Voltaire

All seats provide equal viewing of the universe. —Museum Guide, Hayden Planetarium

To be happy you must have taken the measure of your powers, tasted the fruit of your passion and learned your place in the world. —Santayana

Begin, be bold and venture to be wise. —Horace