Like a skit satirizing Canadian manners…

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a metaphor — and a simile — from Guy Lawson.

I read a New York Times Magazine piece about new Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, some time before Christmas. Written by Guy Lawson, the  bestselling author of the book Arms and The Dudesthe article was insightful, gentle and amusing. It was also the first sit-down interview Trudeau did following his election. If you’re interested, you can read the piece here.

I enjoyed Lawson’s writing style, which I found both knowledgeable and sophisticated. (In my experience, few Americans understand the intricacies of the Canadian political system.) But I especially appreciated the way he was able to work in figurative language.

Here’s a bit I especially liked, because it featured a metaphor lodged inside a simile:

Slipping through the streets of Ottawa on Nov. 10, six days after his swearing-in, I sat with Trudeau in a motorcade that was comically polite. His peloton of four black S.U.V.s stopped at lights, signaled respectfully, followed the speed limit and used no sirens or police escort. It was like a skit satirizing Canadian manners.

First, the metaphor: peloton. That’s a French word (originally meaning ‘platoon’) referring to the main group or pack of riders in a road bicycle race, travelling as an integrated unit. I love the way Lawson selected a French word for a Francophone prime minister, who is also athletic. If you’ve ever seen secret service surround a senior politician you’ll understand how apt the word peloton truly is.

Then, the simile: like a skit satirizing Canadian manners. Infamous for our civility, we Canadians don’t like to make a fuss and are so courteous it can be downright painful. Justin Trudeau is an embodiment of this character. Perhaps it even helped him win the election.

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