My hovercraft is full of eels

What's a meta for?

by Simon Harris

Metaphor |ˈmɛtəfə, -fɔː| noun A thing regarded as representative or symbolic of something else.

Analogy |əˈnalədʒi| noun A comparison between one thing and another, typically for the purpose of explanation or clarification.

Metaphors and analogies are useful tools to help someone understand something unfamiliar in the context of something familiar. The comparison doesn’t have to be literal but it helps that there is enough similarity to help cross the conceptual gap.

There is a fine line between metaphor for the purpose of understanding, and legitimising or emphasising the supposed importance of something by giving it a name borrowed from some other field.

One particular area of personal affront is the co-opting of martial-arts terminology in software development. Not only do I see the use of these terms as unnecessary, they are more often than not painfully misinterpreted and repurposed to suit a desired interpretation. In other words, something unfamiliar is used to help explain something familiar.

Which reminds me of this wonderful sketch from one of my all-time favourite shows, Blackadder: