It Never Ends: The Boiling Frogs

By James Fallows

I'm not waging a crusade here any more. Just noting the persistence of a cliche.* 

Thomas Friedman, NYT, June 20 2010:

Up to now, Erdogan has been very cunning, treating his opponents like frogs in a pail, always just gradually turning up the heat so they never quite knew they were boiling. But now they know.

Canadian journalist Don Newman, June 17, 2010:

But will most Canadians recognize that importance and the sacrifices and adjustments they may have to make? Or will they continue to accept a slowly declining standard of living vis-a-vis the U.S. and many other emerging counties? At this point, we are rather like that frog in a slowly boiling pot of water. At first the warming water is pleasant. By the time it comes to a boil, it is too late for the frog to do anything about it.

If you're going to talk boiled frogs, how you should do it, via Paul Krugman, here. Why I gave up my crusade (but still notice cliches) here. Back from when I was on the crusade here. Policy point: while this homily isn't "true," it will become true-ish by usage, since apparently it fills such a narrative need. That is all.

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* Wrote this item late last night and had set it for delayed posting this evening, to avoid an unseemly pile-up of posts. But I'd already gotten so many helpful messages about the Tom Friedman column by 9am this morning that the time seemed right. Also, with the boiled-frog now having appeared in NYT columns by Gail Collins, Krugman (with important caveat that it's a myth), and now Friedman, I'll start an NYT Op-Ed Boiled Frog Bingo card, which I'll fill in as Brooks, Herbert, Dowd etc take their turns. I confess that I'll worry if Verlyn Klinkenborg devotes one of his nature essays to frogs in a pot. 

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2010/06/it-never-ends-the-boiling-frogs/58411/