"That guy is assaulting us with that haircut".

There's some hyperbole in there, but its definitely a substitution of some sort.

  • 2
    At least it is some kind of metaphor, because the assaulting is not an actual assault. Welcome to this site! – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Apr 18 '15 at 21:18
  • This list seems like a good place to begin on your homework assignment ;-) – Good A.M. Apr 18 '15 at 22:41
  • It is hyperbole, made more entertaining by its similarity to "assault with a deadly weapon". – WhatRoughBeast Apr 19 '15 at 18:12

This seems like a simple metaphor within the expanded meaning of assault:

1.2 Bombard with something undesirable or unpleasant:

The etymology of assault helps to explain the connotations of the word:

late 14c., earlier asaut (c. 1200),
from Old French asaut, assaut "an attack, an assault, attacking forces" (12c.),
from Vulgar Latin *adsaltus "attack, assault,"
from ad "to" (see ad-) + Latin saltus "a leap,"
from salire "to leap, spring" (see assail).

In law by 1580s; historically, assault includes menacing words or actions; battery is an actual blow. etymonline.com emphasis mine

His haircut leaps out with whatever objectionable characteristic it exemplifies in the mind of the author.

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There is a fundamental and longstanding distinction in the law of torts between assault (threatening harm) and battery (harm from actual physical contact). The definition of assault in Black's Law Dictionary (1968) expresses that legal concept in classic terms:

ASSAULT. An intentional unlawful offer of corporal injury to another by force, or force unlawfully directed toward person of another, under such circumstances as create well-founded fear of imminent peril couple with apparent present ability to execute attempt, if not prevented.

My torts professor in law school told us a (possibly apocryphal) story about his torts professor, who at the beginning of a class's discussion of assault, would suddenly fling a chalkboard eraser over the head of a nearby student and say "Assault, Mr. Adams! Why?"

If we suppose that the speaker in the OP's quoted sentence is approaching the notion of assault from a (faux) legal perspective, he or she is claiming that the haircut, while not constituting battery (because no physical contact has occurred), is nonetheless inspiring a "well-founded fear of imminent peril" consequent to exposure to it—perhaps eyesight impairment (if the haircut is hideous) or general physical endangerment (if it is pointy).

Either way the quotation is an example of extreme and absurd hyperbole, but it is also amusing enough to catch on.

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