SHORTCUT by John Pollack


How Analogies Reveal Connections, Spark Innovation, and Sell Our Greatest Ideas
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Examination of how analogies are more than just a section on the SAT exam; they are powerfully relatable tools that shape how we communicate ideas and influence others.

Analogies are everywhere we look, and some of the most exceptional people in history have relied on them to convey ideas that profoundly shifted culture, technology and society. At the most basic level, all of language is analogous. Individual letters represent phonetic sounds, which combine to form letter combinations that represent things or concepts. This innovation in language transformed what mankind was capable of by making communication accessible to everyone. Similarly, the idea that our computer screens are “desktops” is one of the key components of the transition from paper to microchip. By making the new technology relatable, Steve Jobs ensured that the digital revolution would be inclusive. Pollack (The Pun Also Rises: How the Humble Pun Revolutionized Language, Changed History, and Made Wordplay More Than Some Antics, 2011, etc.), a presidential speechwriter for Bill Clinton, relates analogies to an “abstract intellectual scaffolding” that plays a dynamic role in how we think and make decisions. But just as analogies can be constructed to reveal truths, they can also be used as a tool for misdirection. Think of political ads rife with clumsy comparisons intended to discredit an opponent or glorify a candidate—or the persistent idea that business is war or that terror is an enemy. These and other analogies have justified major spending and political decisions that profoundly affect the world by using analogy to camouflage unsavory truths about money and power. The author provides dozens of examples of how analogies guide decision-making and encourages critical thinking as a survival skill to uncover the deeper meanings behind them. Analogies, he writes, are models that can take limitless forms, and we all bear some responsibility in choosing which models influence our lives.

A cogent look at one of the conceptual bedrocks of language.

Pub Date: Sept. 11th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-59240-849-8
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Gotham Books
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2014


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