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This paper concerns three metaphors for financial statements associated with accounting education: lenses, photographs, and the board game, Scrabble. These metaphors not only describe financial statements but also affect our interpretations of them and our behavior towards them. The lens metaphor has many implications that accounting cannot live up to; however, that does not mean that it is an inappropriate metaphor to express our aspirations for accounting and to inspire our students. The Scrabble metaphor is a somewhat pejorative metaphor that we may cynically apply to accounting, but it may also be an effective means of criticizing mindless manipulation of financial statement elements. The photographic metaphor, occupying a middle ground, might be the most intriguing of the three. At an elementary level, it captures some simple truths about accounting, or at least some simple statements we would like to be true. But as the complexities of the metaphor are explored, they reveal a variety of intriguing ontological issues that concern financial statements.


Copyright 2007 Elsevier

NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Critical Perspectives on Accounting. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Critical Perspectives on Accounting, Volume 18, Issue 2, DOI 10.1016/

Publication Title

Critical Perspectives on Accounting

Published Citation

McGoun, Elton G., Bettner, Mark S., Coyne, Michael P. "Pedagogic Metaphors and the Nature of Accounting Signification", Critical Perspectives on Accounting. Volume 18, Issue 2, February 2007, p. 213-230.



Peer Reviewed