Friday, June 13, 2008

Metaphor Madness

A guest on CNBC this week was promoting diversification in holdings, always a smart move in a volatile market. The way he expressed it, however, caught my attention. His advice: “You don’t want to put all your chips in one basket.”

The normal form of the cliche is, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” It goes back to a more rural stage in our nation’s development. If you came back from the hen house after a friendly raid and stumbled on the path to the farm house, thus dropping the basket, you had inedible scrambled eggs.

To be fair to the guest (whose name I don’t remember), if he was talking about tech holdings and chip-making companies, it could have been a cute play on words. I wasn’t paying slavish attention at that moment, but I don’t think he was limiting himself to computer companies.

He may have been mixing the eggs with an idea from roulette strategy: “Don’t put all your chips on one square.” I’m no gambler, but I get the impression that your chances of winning improve if you play combinations on each bet (red or black, odd or even, high or low).

At any rate, while I admire CNBC and think that it has a first-rate staff, I am often amused and annoyed at the frequency with which language gaffes show up there.

SIDEBAR: Eggs in a Basket

Now available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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