Figures of speech part 5

rogersgeorge on April 29th, 2012

I’m reading The Journey of Man by Spencer Wells, and I ran into a nice example of allusion. An allusion is when the writer refers to something that’s not in the current context. It presumes some outside knowledge on the part of the reader. Chapter 3, on page 50, starts with a famous quote from Gloria Steinem, which, by the way is a simile.

A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicyle.

This section of the book describes features of mitochondrial DNA, transmitted through the female line, and stretches of DNA on the Y chromosome, transmitted only through males. They produce independent histories of the human genome, so they can be used to corroborate one another. Anyway, read on until you reach page 71. About the middle of the page you run into this passage.

It is literally a ‘journey of man’, but it is the best tool we have for inferring the details of the trip. It is obviously important to examine the female lineage to see if it follows the same pattern – to make sure the fish stays with the bicycle, so to speak – but the Y-chromosome does provide us with the cleanest distillation of human migrational history.

—A reference to something either in well-known feminist literature or a quote 20 pages earlier in the book, take your pick.

Sorry about the sexist humor. That's a Y chromosome on the left, X chromosome on the right.

Gloria must know a lot of fish who like bicycles.

Subscribe to this blog's RSS feed