Neville Goodman’s metaphor watch: the end of the road?

neville_goodmanDriving metaphors are common in everyday speech: foot on the gas, back seat driver, eyes on the road, apply the brake, change gear. Only driving seat appears with any frequency in PubMed®, but I don’t think it works.

Being in the driving seat implies not just control, but complete control. It’s often a metaphor applied to a situation which previously lacked direction, or in which the direction has altered abruptly. Many of the PubMed articles containing driving seat do not have abstracts, but the implication is clear from the titles: Putting the patient in the driving seat; US cancer care: should insurers really be in the driving seat?; Proposals put nurses in the driving seat.

But the position of patients, insurers, and nurses is nothing like a driving seat, and the metaphor adds nothing to the more literal alternatives. In any case, none of these should have complete control, even though there are many circumstances when they need better consideration or explanation. Insurers in the US have a lot of power, but again they are not in a driving seat. The wanted title was, Should US insurers determine cancer care?

Even less in driving seats are E. coli, actin or RNA, although there are articles that put them there; but bacteriological and biochemical processes are too complex.

In metaphor watch, I have been in the driving seat. Regular readers will realise that it is a little while since the last column, and that what started fortnightly has tailed off to less than one per month. The reason is simple: I have run out of metaphors. If you find one out there, whether you want it praised or condemned, let me know at