As if she didn’t want the TV set to get any ideas…

Word count: 340 words

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. Today’s comes from the late Roger Ebert.

Even when I was an entertainment editor for about five years, I managed to do the job without owning a TV. (Shhh, don’t tell my boss.) As a result, I missed the late 1970s launch of Sneak Previews (originally called Opening Soon), the movie review program starring Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel. But of course I knew who those guys were — they were the ones who made a big deal about how many thumbs they were holding up.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that Roger Ebert was a great writer. I didn’t agree with his movie reviews (too lenient, I thought) but I learned more about him after he was diagnosed with thyroid and salivary gland cancer in 2002 and faced a multitude of surgeries. The first post-surgery pictures I saw of him in 2007 were shocking: the chubby high school nerd I’d remembered had been transformed into an elfin gnome.

Sadly, his illness also robbed him of his voice. Is there a worse fate that could befall a TV show host? Well, death, I guess. And Ebert realized that and harnessed technology to help him. He also launched a blog, and from that I pull this week’s tribute to figurative language. It stems from his memory of his mother’s relationship to TV. The machine had to be stored in the basement, she directed, and if summoned to watch something by her husband or son, here is how she reacted:

When she came down [to the basement], she usually remained standing, as if she didn’t want the TV set to get any ideas.

I love the way this metaphor captures the attitude of a certain type of 1940s housewife: resolute, confident of her own authority and determined not to be bested by technology. The personification of the TV set is a jaunty fillip.

I suggest you spend a happy hour trolling through Ebert’s blog.

Roger Ebert, RIP.

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