Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

"If you scatter commas into a sentence with all the discrimination of a shotgun, you might make it to the foyer before we politely escort you from the building." Source: http://goo.gl/ZH6lO

Doesn't a shotgun fire one bullet per round? Wouldn't it be better to say 'machine gun' in this context?

-Edit-

Found this on the web: United States Code (18 USC 921) defines the shotgun as "a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder, and designed or redesigned and made or remade to use the energy of the explosive in a fixed shotgun shell to fire through a smooth bore either a number of ball shot or a single projectile for each single pull of the trigger."

share|improve this question

closed as general reference by Mitch, tchrist, FumbleFingers, MετάEd, RegDwigнt Mar 29 '13 at 9:39

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

1  
That’s not how a shotgun works. It fires shot in a scattering pattern. –  tchrist Mar 29 '13 at 1:14
    
Did you look up in a dictionary what a shotgun does? –  Mitch Mar 29 '13 at 1:38
1  
Sometimes a shotgun round is a single rifled slug. Most of the time, a cartridge with many little pellets is used. It's for maximum destruction at close range. A shotgun is often called a "scattergun" because it scatters the pellets in a wide pattern, just like commas in 18th-century English. –  user21497 Mar 29 '13 at 1:46
    
You can see some info about shotgun shot patterns at firearmsid.com/A_distshotpatt.htm –  Hellion Mar 29 '13 at 4:26

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

A shotgun fires a large number of pellets (in one shot) in a very divergent scattered manner. Hence, the pattern of destruction is fairly wide. I would think the writer is trying to suggest (metaphorically) that you shouldn't overuse your commas.

On the other hand, a machine gun shoots a single bullet, linearly, at exactly what it's aimed at. This would suggest being precise when using commas (use a metaphorical machine gun for commas).
enter image description here

share|improve this answer
    
You need to use two returns to end a paragraph: <br> is not good enough, so please stop trying to use it. It does not work. Just use two returns to create a blank line. –  tchrist Mar 29 '13 at 1:34
    
how about 2 tags? –  camelbrush Mar 29 '13 at 1:48
1  
You prefer typing eight ugly characters to using your return key? Why? –  tchrist Mar 29 '13 at 1:49
    
I was just confirming whether its me or the <br> tag acts differently here. But I see your point now. :) –  camelbrush Mar 29 '13 at 1:50

You've misunderstood the sentence because you have the wrong idea about what a shotgun is usually used for. This illustrates why a certain kind of background knowledge is always necessary to comprehend what you're reading.

Shotguns are usually used to fire buckshot pellets, but for special purposes, they're used to fire single bullets, either rifled or non-rifled slugs.

The writer of the article you cite uses a metaphor for buckshot pellets, not a single-projectile slug.

The machine-gun analogy is OK, but that's not what the writer chose. Your question asks for a judgment, not an explanation. Judgments about the aptness of a metaphor aren't on topic here, because they're expressions of personal preference, not explanations of English grammar and usage.

share|improve this answer
    
Yup, you are right. I can only blame the movies for my misconception of how shotguns fire. :) The question did ask for an explanation of the metaphor used. –  Soulz Mar 29 '13 at 2:42

It doesn't matter how the shotgun fires (what kind or how many pellets or bullets).

With all the discrimination of a shotgun

means with NO discrimination, since a shotgun will not discriminate. It will kill (hurt/hit/..whatever) everything in it's range.

In this context, to scatter commas into a sentence with all the discrimination of a shotgun means to scatter commas with no regard for anything (with NO discrimination)

share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.