Life is a journey.

A google search of “is a journey, not a destination” yields 1.5 million results, mostly quotations about Life. The “life is a journey” metaphor is one of the oldest in literature, answering one of our oldest questions: Why are we here? The concept of travel helps us understand novelty and change, for it’s a wide world, and the traveler is not exactly the same person he was at the beginning of the journey.

The google results that are not about Life relate to subheadings of Life (such as Wisdom, Healing, and Sustainable Fashion). Most of these are of the “sex is not about orgasm” type. As often as Catholics used to say “It’s a mystery,” the new explainers say, “It’s a process.”

The following are journeys, not destinations:


Happiness, Peace, Success, Joy, Art, Education, Destiny


Fitness, Nutrient management, Losing weight, Quitting smoking, Gut health, Yoga


Recovery, Growth, Therapy, Creativity, Strength, Love, Trust, Home, Faith, Attachment in adoption, Stages of life: Birth, Childhood, Youth, Motherhood, Everyday Parenting, Retirement


Innovation, Leadership, Diversity, Becoming culturally competent, Entrepreneurship, Communication, Team transformation, Agile transformation, Walking the talk, Total quality management, Digital transformation, Cyber security


Food, Coffee, Tango, Photography, Writing

Some people work their entire adult lives thinking Retirement is the goal. Retirement is the beginning of another journey, leading to Death – yet another process, with stages, still not a destination.

Photo: Unknown


I’ve got buns of steel!

– Student to fitness instructor Greg Smithey, 1985

The first baring of buns as a euphemism for buttocks came in the early 1960s. People needed a word that was neither vulgar nor clinical for a part of the body that was until then unmentionable in polite conversation. Context and the dome shape of a bakery bun made it clear which part of the anatomy was being referenced – in a coy, tittering way.

In short order, the metaphor became a dead metaphor (the reference to hamburger toppers faded away). Buns became an everyday synonym for buttocks in a new era, as ideas about the ideal body type for women shifted from soft and curvy to athletic – strong, hard, lean. Shape magazine began publishing in 1981.

In terms of imagery, buns of steel are the antithesis of bakery buns. No one is intimidated when bakery buns enter the room.

Photo: Karl Stull

Drink the Kool-Aid.

More than 900 people drank the Flavor Aid in Jonestown (Guyana) in 1978 and died, a third of them children. Flavor Aid was the usual soft drink at the commune, and it was used to mix tubs of a grape-flavored cocktail, with sedatives and cyanide, at the mass suicide.

If people now say “drink the Kool-Aid” rather than “drink the Flavor Aid,” the marketing folks at Kraft Foods have only themselves to blame. Thousands of hours of television advertising (jolly pitcher of punch bouncing in on a children’s party) prepared a generation to hear the irony in today’s intonation of “drink the Kool-Aid,” describing innocents who have been programmed to follow the party line against their own interest. As the jolly pitcher used to say, in that rumbly, let-the-good-times-roll basso: “Oh, yeah!”

By definition, metaphors are fast and loose with facts.

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THE MET…looks like a red double-decker bus that has stopped short, shoving the passengers into each other’s backs.


Justin Davidson, blogger at, dislikes the logo adopted last March by New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, comparing it to a London tourist bus with everyone aboard being squished into each other.

True, the letters are seriously scrunched, and THE is a little shorter than MET, yielding a slightly sloped contour in the front and back — a not altogether unvehicular profile.

As a denunciation, Davidson’s post is unmemorable (except for the bus metaphor), but his appreciation of the old logo – the letter M proportioned to a square and circle, as in the famous Vitruvian man drawing by Leonardo da Vinci – may change the way you look at signage.

Read Justin Davidson’s blog about the Met logo:


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Roach motel

By buying US Treasury bonds, China has turned its national banks into “a string of monetary roach motels where sovereign debt goes in but never comes out.”

–David Stockman, NY Times Op-Ed, 3/31/2013

Roach Motel originated as a brand name in 1976. Its slogan — “Roaches check in, but they don’t check out” — has been adapted many times in the fields of business and computers. The pop lyric “You can check out anytime you like. but you can never leave” (“Hotel California,” 1977) may be related.

Understandably, metaphors based on irregular check-in/check-out practices and verbal linking of roaches with motels were not endorsed by the American Hotel and Motel Association (AH&MA), now the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

(Posted on FB June 20, 2013

Genetic “fingerprints”

The catch-phrase “in their DNA” is everywhere this year. Corporations tell us proudly technology is in their DNA, innovation is in their DNA, brand power is in their DNA, farming is in their DNA… This is figurative language of a mindless kind.

Most of us know next to nothing about the fabulous four-bit molecule and how it does what it does. Much less how it is analyzed in a lab. But watching cop shows, we happily accept “genetic fingerprints” as irrefutable identification of the innocent or guilty, proving beyond any reasonable doubt that:

Susceptibility to metaphors is in our DNA.

(Posted on FB June 24, 2012)

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