Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Churchill Series – Jun. 13, 2007

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

In his daily speech, formal speeches, and writings, Churchill frequently and effectively used analogy to make his points and persuade his listeners and readers.

In Churchill On Leadership: Executive Success in the Face of Adversity (Forum, 1997), historian Steven F. Hayward tells us:

Churchill’s use of vivid analogies was second nature to him; a complete collection of his analogic phrases would fill a medium-size book.

The beauty of an apt analogy is that it conveys in one or two sentences a truth or insight that is less convincing or clear when explained at more length. The futility and slaughter of trench warfare attrition in World War I, for example, can be amply explained as a function of the superiority of defensive weaponry and tactics available at the time. The artillery barrage and huge manpower needs necessary to mount an offensive against such defenses could not be sustained beyond a short range, making large breakthroughs impossible.

Still the commanders on both sides tried over and over again. Churchill explained the frustrating dynamic equilibrium of the war much more effectively: “Every offensive lost its force as it proceeded. It was like throwing a bucket of water over the floor. It first rushed forward, then soaked forward, and finally stopped altogether until another bucket could be brought.” (Emphasis Hayward’s)

For another - unrelated but irresistible – example, he described his dislike for golf by saying that it was “like chasing a quinine pill around a cow pasture.” (pgs. 102-1-3)
A word to all of you who are golfers: please, Churchill made the analogy, I only reported it.

But in truth, like Hayward, I find it irresistible.

3 comments:

HumboldtBlue said...

Just a nit-pick John ...

The fertility (SHOULD THIS READ FUTILITY?) and slaughter of trench warfare attrition in World War I, for example, can be amply explained as a function of the superiority of defensive weaponry and tactics available at the time.

JWM said...

Dear Humboldtblue,

It certainly should be "futility."

Thank you for pointing that out.

I've got it fixed now.

Best,

John

HumboldtBlue said...

"One of you picked up a spelling error in yesterday’s post. I corrected it and placed a “thank you” on the post thread."

John, I in no way meant that a a reproof, it was just my way of contributing to the excellence of one of my favorite blogs. (hell, 10 years at a daily rag trains the eyes for those things).