Saturday, May 07, 2005

Emotional Roller Coasters: Poet in Search of New Metaphor

Scott wrote a post about his students' use of what he calls a "random preposition generator" because the ones they use just don't make sense. Sharon commented that her students seemed to use "random verb generators." Over at Composition Southeast, she puzzles over her students' usage of "rather" and "whether" as synonyms.

I'm no linguist and can't tease out an answer for either Scott or Sharon, but I'd like to throw my poetic peeve into the discussion.

I hate the phrase: "Emotional Roller Coaster." Just plain hate it. It has gotten to be beyond trite in my ears (and yes, I know that I spew plenty of trite expressions when I blog).

It irritates me because it is used for any experience that carries emotion with it, like:

1.Having a hangnail
2. Having a nervous breakdown
3. Being frustrated because the universe doesn't revolve around you
4. Experiencing an ongoing succession of traumatic events

So what does it really, really mean anymore? Should we have a kiddy emotional roller coaster for hangnails and for feeling miffed? Save the big ones for trauma? And, tell me what kind of roller coaster constitutes an emotional one. A rickety old wooden coaster? A flashy loop de loop at Six Flags?

How do you feel on a coaster? Like throwing up, or like getting back on for a few more rides? If you bounce off exhilarated, then describing your emotional experiences as being a "roller coaster" suggests that you are happy, regardless of life's ups and downs. If, like me, you don't even get on the damn thing because you know that you'll throw up within two seconds of the first coast, your emotions aren't going up and down, they're flatlining.
Oh, so it's the experience itself that is like the roller coaster? meh.

Or maybe it's the sounds of the phrase bouncing off your tongue--the meter, the alliteration? mmmmmm. meh.

It's time to retire this one. It's time to walk into the fridge of fresh expressions and mix up something new.


At 1:24 PM, Blogger clc said...

Time for some of that Sabbatackle, Aunt Joanna? ;-)

At 2:07 PM, Anonymous Joanna said...

Would love some, but the State's Attorney General strongly advised me of rights, and I no longer feel the urge to mix up a big ole water tower of the stuff.

At 6:16 PM, Blogger J. Newberry said...

Yet another great post. I really enjoy Community College English. If you get a chance, try to spread the word about my new blog, The Practical Muse at

Thanks so much.

At 6:42 AM, Blogger natalie said...

Found a lot of useful info on your site about teaching english - thank you. Haven't finished reading it yet but have bookmarked it so I don't lose it. I've just started a teaching english blog myself if you'd like to stop by


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