Metaphors That Ought To Be Misdemeanors

by Matt Sitman

In a review of Wretched Writing: A Compendium of Crimes Against the English Language, Matthew Walther confirms the perils of writing about sex:

[T]here is plenty here to delight readers who enjoy seeing made plain the reasons that body parts and the sexual act should probably never be described. The editors’ heading “breasts, strange” is a bit of an understatement: under it we see these organs compared to snakes, pastries, gymnastic equipment, and eyeballs; we find them behaving like flags and speakers, lungs, and grain elevators. A related section shows us a certain biological structure common to all male higher vertebrates being referred to as a salmon, a cucumber, a lump of excrement, and, in what must surely be the silliest bit of anatomical description I have ever read, a cashew, a banana, and a sweet potato—all in the course of a single John Updike sentence.