Yesterday, the Twitter user @TomLarkinSky tweeted:

Metaphor alert: there’s currently no power in the room at No 10 where the PM is going to make her speech. Might delay things a bit.

Is this a metaphor? If not, which trope is being used? Pun/Paronomasia?

1 Answer 1


It's a pun that slyly points us to a metaphorical interpretation.

The pun lies in the two senses of the word power: electrical current and political clout. The metaphor consists of the insistence on electrical power being interpreted as a symbol of the political power. There is a literal component and there is a figurative component; the former is unarguable fact, the latter is a figurative interpretation.

Taken together, the association is drawn to get a laugh. The "Metaphor alert" is used to force the association, because the author wants people to see the humor in it. Those who support the PM will probably not find it humorous, but her opponents will. That's politics.

Let's take a simpler example of metaphorical usage: say the Queen were to die and the PM were to say "A great light has gone out." That would be a pure metaphor, with no pun intended or expressed (and none intended here).

But now let's say the Queen were to die because she accidentally stuck her finger in a light socket and that tripped the circuit breakers in Buckingham Palace, plunging it into darkness. Now the statement "A great light has gone out" would, perhaps unintentionally and certainly unfortunately, achieve a humorous effect, because people would likely see the association without prompting, and likely be offended by it.

  • 2
    Here’s a better pun on a queen. Oscar Wilde was boasting (as he did) and said: “I could make a pun on any subject”. “All right, make a pun about Queen Victoria!”, challenged in of his circle. Without a pause, Wilde says: “She’s not a subject.”
    – Tuffy
    Commented Sep 22, 2018 at 17:24
  • I am sorry @Robusto, but I can't accept your answer. I don't know what you mean by a "pun that (...) points us to a metaphorical interpretation". It sounds like a concept that you just made up. After your answer, I did yet another effort to understand which trope was used in the tweet, and I am starting to feel that this is a paronomasia/pun in which one meaning is literal (no electrical power in the room) and the other meaning results from a metonymy (ie. political power in the room (ie. the PM) ). I don't see any metaphor.
    – WhyWhat
    Commented Sep 22, 2018 at 17:47
  • @ffunenga That's as clear as I can be. The figure used is metaphor, not metonymy. "When people use metonymy, they do not typically wish to transfer qualities from one referent to another as they do with metaphor.". The intent here is clear, to associate the two ideas, not to use one in place of another.
    – Robusto
    Commented Sep 22, 2018 at 18:02
  • I still can't agree. I have a feeling that "power in the room at No 10" is a pun based on metonymic language(see the first two sentence in this Wikipedia article). When we say 'in the room' instead of saying 'the PM', we are not transferring qualities from the room to the PM.
    – WhyWhat
    Commented Sep 22, 2018 at 18:30
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    +1 @ffunenga There is absolutely no reason why something can't be a pun and metaphorical. The two are not related to each other. In this case, power is being used both metaphorically and as a pun (because it also means something literal.) Commented Sep 22, 2018 at 18:46

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