Metaphorical meteorology

June 25th, 2008
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“[And Friday’s nice weather]…will be the carrot at the end of the stick.”David Spence, weather guy on Lite (sic) 96 and other broadcasting outlets in Calgary
We admire the normally redoubtable Spence for his sponge-like or perhaps granitic ability to absorb/deflect the nearly unlimited abuse heaped on him by the various radio and TV jocks, who hold the meteorological messenger personally responsible for the weather’s annoying habit of behaving other than predicted or hoped.
Still, we have to call him out on his mixing or botching (we’re not sure which) of a common metaphor. (Of course, some would say all weather forecasting is at best figurative or metaphorical, stumbling on the truth only occasionally, and by coincidence.)
Dangling a carrot at the end of a stick that’s been tied to a donkey’s neck is a traditional (possibly apocryphal) method of allegedly tricking the draught animal into walking forward, anticipating a juicy reward. With each step, of course, the carrot moves forward an equal distance, and the donkey is lured into making the entire trek without ever crunching down.
By using this metaphor Spence was telling us that his prognosis was in fact likely to be incorrect. He was merely promising us good weather on Friday, without any intention of delivering, presumably due to some therapeutic motivation to coax us through the intervening days of rain. But come Friday – if he was using the metaphor deliberately – it would still be raining, with good weather promised for Monday, presumably.
From the context of his banter with the radio jocks, however, it sounded like he actually meant his forecast. In that case, he was stumbling over the more common “carrot and stick approach”, i.e., alternating the punishment of flogging with an actual (not merely fraudulently promised) reward such as food. He was attempting to tell us that we would suffer two or three days of meteorological pummelling before emerging into the bright sunny uplands of an Alberta springtime. Which we did.
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By George Koch
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