Thursday, March 19, 2009
Silver bullets flying everywhere
Have we ever heard so much about silver bullets as in recent times? Not that anyone is being over-optimistic about the power of the famed SB. But every time someone announces the pouring of gazillions of dollars, euros or pounds into some floundering bank or other, a sombre guy in a dark suit pops up to say, “this may not be the silver bullet”.
Okay, okay, we get the picture. No matter how much cash gets shovelled into achingly deep holes, there is no guarantee it’ll do the trick of reviving the global economy.
It got me wondering where the silver bullet concept comes from. Thanks to Wikipedia, I now have a clue or two. Appropriately enough for these scary times, it goes back to the days when werewolves, vampires, monsters and other boogeymen made small children whimper and brought bad dreams in the night.
Seems that if you were going out into the dark to slay such beasts with your trusty musket, only silver ammo would do. Why silver? It’s all to do with ancient associations of silver with the moon and the human soul. With its clean, bright sheen, silver was thought to be the only metal brilliant enough to vanquish evil.
The Brothers Grimm dreamt up silver buttons for a gun used in their fairytale,‘The Two Brothers’, to do away with a bullet-proof witch.
In the 20th century a Eugene O’Neill play, ‘the Emperor Jones’, had silver bullets at the core of the story. Investors in 21st century schemes run by modern vampire Bernie Madoff might have been wishing for a silver slug or two lately, too.
But the irony of it all is that apparently they’re not actually that useful. Because silver is less dense than lead, it’s a bit sluggish when fired from a gun. P’raps it’s time for the leaders of nations and fixers of problems to dream up a different metaphor.
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