The hot frogs ask: Et tu, Al?

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I finally took the unwise step of searching Google News for recent uses of the (totally fictitious) boiled-frog cliche.

Sigh. Of the many examples, these two were most dispiriting:

First, from the Wall Street Journal online, last month:

When you pop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it jumps out. When you put it in cold water and gradually turn up the heat, it gets boiled.

Could Romano Prodi's resignation as Italy's prime minister provide the trigger that stops the country from becoming a boiled frog?


Dispiriting because: This was the lead of the article! Not just inaccurate but unimaginative!

Second, from the Expatica blog in Belgium, about an appearance in Europe two weeks ago by Al Gore. How did he explain the political difficulty of mobilizing for action on climate change?

Al borrowed industry's boiling frog analogy - a frog can be boiled alive if the water is heated slowly enough - to highlight people's ignorance towards global warming.


Please, Mr. Vice President. No! This is dispiriting because you are our leading scientist-statesman! The frogs beg you to stop. This may be the only time you and the Wall Street Journal have ever agreed about anything -- unfortunately, you're both wrong. Think globally, act locally, and take this analogy out of your repertoire!

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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