Metaphors as pictures

What is a metaphor Websters explains a metaphor as “a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them” (Merriam-Webster). Lakoff and Johnson’s “Metaphors We Live By” explains in great detail what metaphors mean to people.  Many see metaphors as merely the “rhetorical flourish” (Lakoff online) where as they are much more, they affect our very understanding of statements and words. Metaphors are how we relay our understanding to one another.

            If the word beach is said instantaneously an image of blue skies, roaring waves, white sand and palm trees pops into your head. People think in images.  The mind doesn’t see words, it sees pictures, even for abstract thoughts like happiness or love. Metaphors are a way of portraying those thoughts. Lakoff and Johnson write about Orientational metaphors, such as “I’m feeling up. That boosted my spirits. …Thinking about her always gives me a lift” (Lakoff online). These all relate to happiness, happiness is seen as an upward quality, a positive thing, we than relate it to ascending words, words that give the impression of lifting, because that is the way it makes us feel; lifted.  Every sentence or phrase portrays in image in your head. He was buried by all is work, doesn’t give an exact picture of a man covered in piles and piles of paper, but the picture still appears of someone thoroughly surrounded by files.  Granted this may not even be seeing as a metaphor in some people’s mind, Michael Reddy calls them Conduit Metaphors.  “Reddy observes that our language about language is structured… by the following… Ideas are objects… expressions are containers. Communication is sending” (Lakoff online). Words are used because they hold certain meanings in certain contexts. If it was just said that “He was buried” and not “he was buried…by all his work” two different ideas pop into one’s head. The word buried alone holds one connotation where as buried by his work holds another. This is true of many metaphors.

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            Lakoff gives a metaphorical example of “Argument is War” trying to portray how as a culture we see arguing as a “verbal battle”.  American’s as a whole see arguments as aggressive, defensive, angry actions.  Truth be told arguments are simply a way of expressing a difference in opinion. Lakoff and Johnson try to explain by saying argument is war in our culture, well imagine a culture where and argument is seen as a dance.  Italians view arguments as a fact of life, they are everyday occurrences thought of nothing more than a speaking of one’s mind and moving on.  An opinion is given, the other side is stated, the dance of words back and forth begins and ends with both people seeing it as less of an aggressive action and more of discussion of opinions. In American the idea of argument as war as changed the image in are mind of arguments, they are seen as negative aspects of our linguistics.  Maybe the word argument should be demolished as a whole, call everything a discussion, in reality an argument is just that, a discussion of opposing beliefs. By calling an argument a discussion an entire different connotation to the word comes up, one more of intellect and conversation, not of battles or attack. As result of substituting the word argument for debate, which both have aggressive connotations, takes away the negative aspect of the image giving it an entirely different feel.

            People feel words, see them and then understand them. Metaphors are simple a way of communicating those images and feelings to another individual.  By knowing this it displays knowledge of our language and how we can portray certain feelings just with a simple word switch. We can take away a negative feeling and make it positive simply by changing out a word, discussion versus argument. As stated by Lakoff and Johnson “The essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another” (Lakoff Online).



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