September 30, 2012

Metaphors as Symbols

Lakoff and Johnson discuss metaphors and how we live be them. To some extent, this is correct because we do constantly use examples to aid our discussions. The example of “Time is Money” is clear enough to understand; when having discourse with someone, and we are rushed for time, we might use the metaphor, “Time is money.”  If you notice, my use of “we are rushed for time” is also a metaphor. Lakoff and Johnson state, “That metaphor is pervasive in everyday life, not just in language but in thought and action.”  This is very true because we always compare our life situations to other symbols and objects.

Society today loves to use metaphors in a new concept called Memes. Memes are always taking situations and adding ironic/sarcastic phrases to them. Those alone are memes. We, as a society, definitely find a lot of humor and enjoyment in metaphors. The other day, I was watching a movie called “Pitch Perfect.” One of the leading ladies proclaimed after being insulted, “I will finish him like cheesecake!” This line stuck out so much to me, not only because it was hilarious, but also because it was clever in its use of words and language. Lakoff and Johnson discuss metaphoric structuring, that words and language are structured to be systematic, which when “focused on one aspect of a metaphorical concept, it can keep us from focusing on other aspects of the concept that are inconsistent with that metaphor.” For instance, going back to the movie quote, the use of finishing off a man like cheesecake doesn’t really stand for itself. Yet, using such an outrageous object such as cheesecake, we as an audience are able to dismiss the inconsistency of the metaphor.

Metaphors bring me think of Locke and his belief in thinking words are symbols. Metaphors are symbols in some way; Lakoff and Johnson state, “The speaker puts ideas (objects) into words (containers) and sends them (along a conduit) to a bearer who takes the idea/objects out of the words/containers.” We use symbols to explain and define things for us, which metaphors do the same thing. Locke has stated, “Primary ideas are gleaned through sensory observation (that is guided by common experience)” Metaphors are ideas that we come up with through observation. For instance, orientational metaphors are described to be identified through the concept of special orientation. Happy is up, sad is down. We observe these moods, and identify them as symbols.


James Lannon said...

I like what you said about our culture creating meme's and deriving humor from metaphors. I really identified with this, I spend hours lurking the internet for new funny meme's when I can't fall asleep or have free time. I think it's interesting to consider how those who are not a part of the internet(meme) "culture" would react to viewing meme's. Think of someone without internet access, not even necessarily in a foreign part of the world, being exposed to a meme. One I'm thinking of specifically right now is this picture of a girl from "occupy Tallahassee" shown protesting. The meme states, "against big corporations, tweeted from her iphone." Someone not exposed to meme's and the norm of humor established with them, would probably not find the humor or sarcasm in the meme. They might associate all participants in occupy events as hypocrites, and therefore create their own meaning/view of those who participate without a real understanding of what the meme was trying to convey.

Bridgette Balderson said...

I too, really like that you mentioned memes as metaphors, and I literally have too many memes that I could use as examples here about Lakoff and Johnson (embarrassingly enough). However, here's a simple definition though. According to Wikipedia memes are defined as "an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture. A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena." So I agree, yes, they would be conduit metaphors. However, the problem with memes is as James says. "People who are not a part of internet and meme culture" wouldn't understand the sarcasm or the actual message being transmitted. Now that memes have been brought up, I just realized how linguistically/socially complex certain memes can be if we view them from an educational standpoint like this. I might just be a huge nerd, but it seems as if memes are prime rhetorical theory fodder.

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