folk metaphor

A Goat Rope – A Southwestern Metaphor

“That’s a goat rope”

Folk metaphors are comparisons made between two unlike things for effect, in this case a folk metaphor from my father who spends a lot of time on cattle ranches in rural Arizona. He has lived in Arizona all his life, and is an amateur cowboy.

Me: When you say something’s a goat rope what does that mean?

TC: It means that something not right, that it’s a mess or it’s too difficult to be bothered with. Something that you cannot change, but is something annoying to deal with. Something that is difficult and not easy and not quite right.

Me: When would you use it?

TC: When I saw something that wasn’t right or was a mess or a situation that is irritating. For example the parking lot at Costco today was a goat rope, because it was crowded and disorganized and people were driving stupid.

Me: Where did you learn it?

TC: I don’t know where I learned it from. I mean, have you ever tried to rope a goat? It’s hard and they are smelly and irritating. Therefore, a goat rope. Maybe I learned it on the ranch, I don’t know.


Folk similes are usually connected to tabooistic vocabulary, that is words we arrant supposed to talk about, however in this case it is most certainly not. It is almost an occupational or niche simile as it has to do with ranching. The average person has never had to rope a goat (referring to the practice of tying a goat’s legs together either for competition or transportation) and therefore would not understand the difficulty of roping one, and therefore the meaning of the simile would be lost on them. Therefore, it almost becomes an identity simile, those who have worked on ranches would understand its meaning,, but an outsider would not. The simile is applied to non-ranching circumstances like an irritating parking lot or a busy airport, this fact is interesting as it is the person using their ranching identity outside the ranch and most likely to a person who would understand.


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