Parallelism, metaphor, chiasmus

On the slogan in my posting yesterday “Come a long way, long way still to go” (A), a chiastic formula conveying:

Things have improved, but still we’re far from the goal (and there are constant threats to take back the gains)

(A) is a poetically compressed version of (B):

We have come a long way, but we have a long way still to go

(which presents two metaphorical idioms in parallel, with their contrast between the opposed motion verbs come and go).

So there’s a lot of linguistic interest here.

The idioms. Both the come and go idioms have caught the interest of lexicographers.

On the first, from the Collins Dictionary site:

If you say that someone or something has come a long way, you mean that they have developed, progressed, or become very successful. He has come a long way since the days he could only afford one meal a day

and from the Merriam-Webster site:

come a long way idiom

1: to rise to a much higher level of success: to become very successful // He’s come a long way from his days as a young reporter. Now he’s one of the country’s most respected journalists.

2: to make a great amount of progress // Medicine has come a long way in recent years.

On the second, from the Merriam-Webster site:

a long way to go idiom

:much more to do // We’ve accomplished a lot, but we still have a long way to go.

and from the Macmillan Dictionary site:

phrase have a long way to go

to need to do a lot more before you are successful We’ve raised $500 so far, but we still have a long way to go.

Both idioms are part of the larger metaphorical constellation is which life is viewed as a journey, specifically a journey towards success and accomplishment.

Parallelism and chiasmus. (B) has roughly parallel conjuncts, come a long way and have a long way to go — but the first has a long way associated with a subject (as an adverbial modifier of come), while the second has it associated with an object (of have, though it’s also understood as an adverbial modifier of go). So, as I said, roughly parallel, but the syntax and semantics are complex.

(A), however, is straightforwardy chiastic: the first conjunct is of the form

motion verb  (come) + a long way

while the second is of the form

a long way + motion verb (go)

— so, transpositional in character (and poetically satisfying).

My 6/1/18 posting “A chiastic bird” has extensive discussion of chiasmus of several kinds, spurred by this Bizarro cartoon entitled “To Mock a Killingbird”:

To Kill a Mockingbird vs. to mock a killingbird


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