Monday, January 17, 2011


The phrase "a snowball's chances in hell" is a very problematic metaphor. For one, it depends crucially on one's conception of hell. Someone subscribing to the pit-of-fire image would usually conclude that the snowball wouldn't last a moment, while someone who had read Dante might assume that the snowball could last indefinitely on the frozen lake of the 9th circle.

Then again, if a snowball really were to be punished, I can't think of a more appropriate hell than a lake of brimstone, a limitless expanse of inexpungible flame. But damnation is eternal, so even in such a place would the snowball ever melt away? Or would it be always melting, steaming in the infernal heat, but never truly disappearing--trapped for eternity where it least belongs?

Of course, that begs a host of theological questions, such as whether a snowball can possibly be wicked. To all appearances, snowballs lack free will, and therefore cannot be culpable for what they are formed and used to do. And do snowballs have souls? Is there an eternal essence that lasts beyond the impact or the spring melt? And if so, what does that say about those who make, and throw, these soul-endowed snowballs?

There is no time to really tackle these questions, or to point out the other problems fundamental to the snowball metaphor. Because there is a much more evocative image, with a much more concrete answer:

"What are a fire-imp's chances in a snowball fight?"

Simply put? None.

1 comment:

  1. hahaha you're right--that is the more important question.