September 30, 2012

metaphors and the meaning of our language

I thought it was interesting the way Lakoff and Johnson discuss metaphors as an idea but also as a concept in the way we think. I school we all have been taught what a metaphor is an how we use it in our writing but I have never thought of the idea that we use metaphors to describe our daily lives or how we are thinking or feeling. The idea that a metaphor changes an act, especially in different cultures, is an interesting idea to think of. The whole process of the arguments as war and arguments as a dance literally changes the entire way we go about thinking of an act, or how he describes time as money.

We all know that time cannot literally be money but we equate time with money because we are such a money driven society that to waste any amount of time is money that we could have been earning doing something better with our time.  If you think about it in everyday life a small child has no care in the world for money because they don’t grasp the idea yet of what money is or how money works in the world but for an adult money to them is what makes the world go round. So in these terms to a small child who, theoretically, lives in another culture for this example time would relate more to lost sleep of play while to an adult and the culture they live in time would be money because money is what they see as the most important thing in their culture that they are missing out on.

With this in mind who words can take on different meaning in different cultures in relation to how we use metaphors in our everyday life in makes me thing about the reading we have done on Locke and his idea that all men may use the same words but do these words really all have the same meaning? He talks about how we learn our language through the things that we experience and that these experiences are what teach us the meaning of things, this right here is what I think that Lakoff and Johnson are trying to get at when they talk about how argument could be a fight or a dance. The way we go about thinking of something as a metaphorical concept depends on how we first learned the concept based on how things run in our society’s and cultures.  


A Cycene said...

It is certainly interesting to look at the habits and uses that people go through in their day to day life once they have been told to look specifically for it. From the time when we're infants and growing up, we're constantly learning and picking up things that we are exposed to, so when we pick up memes, metaphors, expressions, we're not deliberately thinking, "Oh this is a metaphor-insert here in this conversation". We're unconsciously trained to use them and then later in life we're taught what it is we've been doing. I think this also has an effect on how we're brought up and taught to think. For example, the "Time is Money" motto-we're taught that in order to make the best use of the time we're given, we need to work and make as much money as we can, therefore time is money. Subliminal messaging, especially in advertisements is the most dominating and aggressive form of speaking to the audience.

In relation to your second paragraph, I see how you relate the time is money and the importance of it to an adult versus a child. I think the difference in importance and relevance to each individual is also because they don't quite understand the meaning of it. The child hasn't been taught the real meaning of money and time. But I also think that they learn what it is from the pressing society and surroundings that they grow up in. For example, if you take one child, who has grown up in an environment without media and say to them, "Time is money," they're probably going to look at you like, "What? No it's not. Time is time and money is money." But if you take a child who has been taught through metaphors and media that time can earn money, they're going to understand the "time is money" metaphor.

In relation to your third paragraph and the reading with Locke, I think this metaphor reading can help clarify that no, all words do not have the same meaning. And this was one of his biggest issues about words not having "truth". It is for this reason, that he basically condemns not only orators, but anyone who misuses words. To misuse words not only means to manipulate them in order to win an audience to your side as an orator, but it means to use the words in a way that does not have the exact meaning. I think it's safe to say that Locke would throw a fit (oops just used a metaphor) or rather, angrily express his discontent and unhappiness for metaphors.

Kari K

Catalina said...

Your comment "...all men may use the same words but do these words really all have the same meaning?" made me think of a specific line from Locke's essay. In proposition 22, he says: "This is so evident in the Greek authors, that he that shall peruse their writings will find in almost every one of them, a distinct language, though the same words." (824) When we read Locke, I knew these authors weren't composing in different languages (collections of words) but rather different languages (collections of meanings). I understood that these individual authors used the same words with differing connotations, but now, recalling that Greece was a collection of city-states rather than a unified nation, I can connect the Metaphors We Live By reading. The differing meanings between these pieces was not only due to the difference between their authors as individuals but also to their different cultures. The unconscious metaphors they use in their writing represent the ideological differences between their respective cultures. For example, a work coming from an Athenian author would exhibit very different metaphors than a piece originating from Sparta.

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