Like killing a butterfly with a hammer

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 simile from Katherine Ashenburg…

California has enacted water restrictions for the first time in state history. For some cities — such as Sacramento — this will mean cutting water usage by up to 35 percent. Perhaps predictably, this now has some people speculating about the horrible waste of water in the daily-shower habit.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that showerheads spray up to two and a half gallons of water per minute. If the average shower lasts eight minutes, (as it does, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), then that’s up to 20 gallons of water, every shower. Multiply that by the number of residents of California and you get to some scary big numbers.

In an interesting piece in New York Magazine writer Melissa Dahl speculates that the end of the daily shower may be on its way. In order to support her observation, she presents information from the 2007 book The Dirt on Clean, by Katherine Ashenburg.

Better yet, she interviews Ashenburg, who offers a fabulous simile. “We’re pouring so many liters of water over ourselves to remove, essentially, just a few specks; it’s an extraordinary thing to do,” Ashenburg says. “It’s kind of like we’re killing a butterfly with a hammer.”

The article goes on to explain that it’s possible to shower weekly rather than daily without abandoning personal hygiene. Not sure I’ll be able to manage it but it’s interesting food for thought…