October 1, 2012

Everyday metaphors

I found George Lakoff and Mark Johnson’s take on metaphors and what role it plays in our society and culture today to be very insightful and something I had never thought about. They propose that instead of metaphors being used for simple rhetorical and literary thought and speech, people use metaphors every single day whether they realize it or not, in their speech as well as their actions. Down to the simplest of tasks from going to sleep at night and being “dead tired” or so hungry you could “eat a horse”, individuals use metaphors everyday. Straightforward the way they put is that “the essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another”. We define our experiences and actions in relation to past or related experiences we’ve had. By creating these culturally metaphors they are able to be past down in society.

Lakoff and Johnson have an arranged relation between argument and war, how the two are related but different at the same time. Although there is no physicality in arguing, the two parties are attacking and defending their designated position. The framework of arguing shares that with war. “We attack positions and defend our own”, these concepts are “metaphorically structured”.

All of societies metaphors are culturally sound and come from prevalent and current ordeals. The public determines what metaphors are appropriate and how they can be properly used. What phrases are spoken in one country might hold another meaning in another or not make any sense. In the reading they also give the example that “time is money”, this comes from the idea that in order to earn and make money you have to spend time doing so. In relation money and an individual’s own time share common ground. Metaphors such as this do not exist all over the world but are derived from societies makeup and basic everyday routines.

This process of phrase creation from within the culture stands beside the term agency. For the culture is in its own way the agency, moving the metaphor forward and producing action. The populaces of a given area are the creators and are establishing customary usages for these metaphors.


Steven Loer said...

I really enjoyed the last two paragraphs of your post. Originally I thought you were going to explain what was written in Lackoff and Johnson’s reading, yet in a shorter form. I thought it was clever to tie in how the relation of conceptual systems with regards to phrase creation has to agency.

I originally read Richards and Ogden, which in some way exemplifies the same points. In the text From the Meaning of Meaning, the idea that “words imply things corresponding to them,” has the same effect explained in the Metaphors We Live By.

Along those same lines, the text also says, “When we speak, the symbolism we employ is caused partly by the reference we are making and partly by social and psychological factors.” That furthers the point you made that culture becomes agency, in terms of common words used in everyday phrase creation.

When Lackoff and Johnson refer to “Time is Money” they further introduce the cultural value of both time and money and how the words can relate to one’s perception on multiple levels. The systematic approach that leads us to understand the process of deciphering this statement has to do with the context the metaphor is introduced by. I personally would like to go into this further in class as I believe this is the very fascinating in terms of everyday life. This term alone drives most individuals to do most of their everyday activities. When peeling back the layers of this metaphor so many underlying ideas go into the phrase as a whole, allowing the phrase to be culturally understood.

What is Rhetagaming? said...

That's something curious. I wonder if these phrases that we hold so closely (I.E. Argument is War, Time is Money) differs in another culture. I wonder if Time is Yen to the Japanese or Time is Rupees to the Russians. That Japanese certainly make it seem like time is of the essence in every day life.

And if any of these phrases or concepts are different in another culture, how is that helping them? What are the benefits of not treating argument as war, but as something else? We're obviously different culturally, as seen in our arts. Japanese art is different from American art, etc. Is there a way their culture behaves that causes a difference in metaphor?

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