14

"Please don't get angry," I throw out as a preemptive sally, even though it feels a bit like chucking an ice cube into the path of a forest fire.

What does it mean here?

  • "They say love is all but pointless in madness such as this, / it's like trying to stop a fire with the moisture from a kiss!" -- The Change, Garth Brooks – Mason Wheeler Nov 16 '15 at 22:12
17

... feels a bit like chucking an ice cube into the path of a forest fire.

  • feels a bit like frequently means a figure of speech follows.
  • chucking means throwing, but suggests lack of precision. So it would mean throwing something in a general direction with no specific target.
  • an ice cube into the path of a forest fire. Presumably one would do this to extinguish a fire, but a forest fire has so much energy that it will melt the ice cube and boil away the water with barely any delay.

The effort of extinguishing a forest fire with an ice cube will have no effectiveness. It might feel that the thrower has contributed something, but it is so minor as to be only symbolic.

12

This quotation is using a metaphor. (Specifically, it uses a simile. A simile is a metaphor that uses "like" or "as" to compare things.)

A forest fire "rages". It is huge, and dangerous. It can be "contained" by major interventions (such as back-burning, or dumping huge loads of water or foam).

A tiny fire (like a candle wick) can be put out by dropping an ice cube on it. Dropping an ice cube on a grease fire is likely to make it worse. Chucking (throwing) an ice cube at a forest fire is likely to make a tiny sizzle, but otherwise have no effect.

The author is saying that once the other person gets angry, their rage is very difficult to control. Saying "Please don't get angry" is very unlikely to prevent them from raging out of control.

  • 3
    +1 But it's the explicitly comparative form of metaphor called a simile – StoneyB on hiatus Nov 15 '15 at 20:32
  • 6
    Why bring up a grease fire when it has nothing to do with the question? There are lots and lots of fires made worse, or not improved, by an ice cube. – KRyan Nov 16 '15 at 2:00
  • @KRyan -- Some brush fires are effectively grease fires. Burning manzanita shrubberies smell like burning gasoline. – Jasper Nov 16 '15 at 6:27
  • @StoneyB I was always told metaphors and similies were distinct entities. – Pharap Nov 17 '15 at 9:24
5

The equivalent from Iceland is "Pissing on a lava flow."

Which is to say, to try to slow down a natural disaster with utterly inadequate means.

  • 6
    Could you explain the similarity? Someone who doesn't understand the original sentence likely wouldn't understand this either. – Andrew Lott Nov 16 '15 at 0:21
3

chucking an ice cube into the path of a forest fire

means "doing something that will make absolutely no difference to the situation"

A more common way of phrasing it is "throwing a snowball into the fires of hell"

An ice cube contains a very small amount of cold water. A forest fire contains a vast quantity of hot flame.

If you were to chuck (throw) an ice cube into a forest fire, it would have no effect on the forest fire. The ice cube would be completely destroyed in moments.

  • I have heard "A snowballs chance in hell" before but not throwing a snowball, i like it. – Spaceman Nov 17 '15 at 1:51

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