Magnificent Metaphors #1: The Post Turtle

Image credit: Eric Tank (c'mon, it says it right there).

The “post turtle” is a metaphor that basically explains how politicians get to such high positions.

It is said that this metaphor was coined by an old cynical rancher who was having a discussion with a young whippersnapper from the city about some famous politician of the day.

At some point in the discussion, the old man said, “That man is like a post turtle.”

The whippersnapper had no idea what a post turtle was, so he asked for clarification. “What is a post turtle?”

“Well,” the old man began, “Sometimes, when you’re driving down a country road, you’ll see a turtle balanced on a post. That’s a post turtle. He didn’t get himself up there, he doesn’t belong there, and once he’s up there, he can’t do no good. All you want to do is help get him down.”

This phrase has been used several times by, or in reference to, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and not surprisingly, Donald Trump.

But the marvels of the post turtle do not end with politics. This simple phrase can take on quite a different nature. Post turtle can also be quite appropriately taken to mean literally “after the turtle.” While this definition may seem nonsensical, the interpretation makes logical sense.

Here’s how: The story of the tortoise and the hare helps to illustrate this point. Everyone’s heard the story of how the tortoise challenges the hare to a race, and then beats the hare because of a combination of both his determination and the hare’s lethargy. The hare, as one would expect, suffers endless taunts and humiliations because of his defeat. After all, he actually managed to lose in a race to the slowest of all possible quadrupeds (excluding the sloth). The moral of this story, according to Aesop, is that one who makes steady, though perhaps slow progress, will triumph over one who is lackadaisical. This story is about hard work and dedication, and is very relevant to our definition of post turtle.

The turtle (or tortoise; the two are synonymous) is a hard worker. He is one who is willing to strive for a seemingly unattainable goal, work hard, and eventually be rewarded for his efforts. Our world needs turtles. It needs strong men and women who are willing to strive, to work hard, to reach, to better themselves, and to better this world. Turtles are positive. They are salutary influences. Our world does not need hares. It does not need people who are lackluster in their work, who are lazy, who are sluggish, who will not do good for others. Such people are scourge of our society.

How does this relate to post turtle? The Latin word “post” means after, and if we apply the characteristics of the turtle in this fable, “post turtle” comes to mean “after the good” or “after the positive”. What does this mean? If a society is in its “post turtle” era, it has passed its golden age. It has forsaken the values and precepts that made it great. It has left behind goodness, hard work, and betterment of self. Such a society is soon overthrown. People who are “post turtles” are detriments to society. They are the negative. They do not work for their good, much less the good of others. They are like leeches, sucking life out of all they come in contact with. Such a soul is ill-fated.

“Post turtle” a metaphor that has its origin in an old joke, which very aptly describes politicians, but can also be appropriated as a metaphor for corrupt societies or individuals.


  1. Thank you for giving me photo credit! This picture has been going around on the internet for almost ten years and only two other people have asked me for permission to use it.

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