March 26, 2019
March 26, 2019
Last week I ticked off something on my bucket list, seeing Billy Joel live at Madison Square Gardens in New York. I have always been a fan of Billy Joel and have every single one of his albums.
One of the very cool aspects I love about Billy Joel’s songs is that they tell a story. From Goodnight Saigon to Scenes from an Italian Restaurant or his most famous song of all The Piano Man.
He often also uses metaphors. One of my favourite examples comes from the song Pressure, where he sings:
‘Here you are in the ninth, two men out and three men on.’
Unless you are very familiar with the game and rules of baseball (or softball) you’ll probably not understand that metaphor. I played Softball throughout my twenties so understand the huge amount of pressure you face as a batter when you are in the ninth (the very last innings). If you have two men out and you go out, it is innings and game over. To add to the pressure you have three men on which means all three bases are loaded with runners. A great hit away and you have the chance of bringing in at least one runner. With a home run, four runners! This will most likely win the game considering baseball and softball are normally very low scoring games.
One of my rules with metaphors is that if you have to explain it to your audience then it’s not a good metaphor. It is why the vast majority of sporting metaphors do not work.
Now I am not criticising Billy Joel. He is an entertainer and with album sales over 150 million, 33 top US40 hits and six Grammy Awards, he can do whatever the hell he likes. In New York, July 19 is even named Billy Joel day!
My point is that unless you are Billy Joel, when you use metaphors, make sure your audience will understand them. It’s like a joke, if you need to explain it, it’s not funny.