I have now lived long enough to confirm that language is indeed a mobile army of dead metaphors—or at least a mobile army of words that have been beaten senseless in one way or another. (How things that are dead or senseless remain mobile is not my concern; I never use metaphors.) When I first arrived in graduate school, the other human beings who arrived at the same time as I did referred to our collective group as either a “class” or a “year.” Only occasionally would they refer to the group as a “cohort,” and when they did it was always with a little pause before the word, a sort of verbal smirk or wink. (By the way, I myself never use this word; as I said, I do not use metaphors. Also I never try to be cute.) Recently I have heard the word “cohort” very frequently from the mouths of Ph.D. students, political science Ph.D. students to be precise. But when these youngsters use it, there is no smirking or winking. They say very matter-of-fact things with it, like “wait, is John in your cohort, or the one above you?”; or “I never really knew him, even though he was in my cohort, but it makes sense because he was always hanging out with people in other cohorts.” Cohort, cohort, cohort. The deed is done. The cohort metaphor is dead and will never come back to life. (That the metaphor was overly cute and idiotic to begin with makes me not at all unhappy about its death, just by the way.) What lessons can I learn from this, other than that metaphors really do die? I’m not sure. Perhaps that I am getting old, and that the language I speak will get old, and die, too. Perhaps just that graduate students in political science are insensitive and like to kill things.


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