October 1, 2012

"Shooting Fish in a Barrel"

Metaphors have always been a tricky concept for me; the difference between a simile and a metaphor managed to send my 5th grade mind into utter confusion. Even to this day, poetry and I have our ups and downs.

When it comes to metaphors Lakoff and Johnson explicitly say "the meaning is right there in the words."The metaphor clearly defines what is meant by the phrase and/or term and have therefore seemed to make our language easier to understand. My question is, to what extent does it make language easier? Creating the metaphor is difficult itself, if it were self-explanatory middle school English teachers would not use a week of teaching in order to explain it. A significant amount of thought goes into the process of creating a metaphor. If we think about it, after first being exposed to a new metaphor, we need to break down and find its meaning and then figure out to how to use the metaphor in specific context.

However while these metaphors seemingly make our speaking of language easier, how does it affect those who are don't know English as well as us? Other countries use different words with similar meaning and similar words with different meanings. Learning the language along with learning the idioms and expressions can seriously confuse a person and vice versa when it comes to us learning a non-English language. Crossing the expressions and metaphor across a language barrier proves to be very difficult. For example, in class the other day, we saw a video of a German musical artist who didn't understand "it's like shooting fish in a barrel"- he managed to talk for five minutes about how the expression didn't make sense, why would you put your fish into a barrel to shoot them? This expression is so common in English that I wouldn't think twice about it.

So when we look further into metaphors, maybe the meaning isn't right there in the words? Maybe just because we understand the context in which the metaphor is being used, the meaning of the words arise.

1 comment:

Katie Latchford said...

I think you really brought your post together at the end with a big role of metaphors-- context. Metaphors are conceptual parallels and they really don't mean much without it. Each language comes up with their parallels, some of which translate, some of which do not. Even in the english language, different subcultures use different metaphorical sayings.

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