October 1, 2012

The Overlooked Metaphor

Lakoff and Johnson discuss how metaphors are encoded into our everyday life and point to the idea that, to a certain extent, we don't even notice them. What I gained from the reading was that they were saying how metaphor is much deeper than most believe it to be, it is a way of "thought and action;" metaphor goes  way beyond simply language by itself. I very much so related to their thought that metaphors help us perceive how we live our days and how we "get around in the world" or even "relate to other people." We spend a great amount of our time comparing things to other things-- we live our whole lives through metaphor. I was much more keen to this thought as opposed to Locke's idea that language is abused by figurative speech. Locke insisted that figurative speech only insinuated wrong ideas, moved the passions, and thereby mislead judgement. Lakoff and Johnson, however, discuss how metaphor helps language, and everyday life in general, because we are able to relate things to other things.  

They give several examples of very widely used metaphors and this intrigued me for the reason I stated earlier: you almost forget that you are using metaphor because they are so common and such an important part of our lives and language. The first one they discuss is the metaphor that "argument is war." They go on to list several examples by which this metaphor can be extended and used: "He attacked every point of my argument," "I demolished his argument." These phrases are a part of very common speech, so I found it very interesting that they had such light shown on them. This is also where they go on to discuss how one can "win or lose arguments." This also draws on the idea of metaphor in itself. It makes me wonder exactly how deep they were wanting to go with the discussion of metaphor, for anything can be seen as a metaphor for anything... Where do you draw the line? Is there a line to be drawn?

Another example they give is "time is money." Sub-examples being "you're wasting my time," or "how do you spend your time?" This is where they discuss how arguments follow patterns and that the concept of metaphor is systematic. They also mention how "time in our culture is a valuable commodity" (which is a metaphor within itself). This again emphasizes the idea that much of our language revolves around metaphor.

The final type of example that Lakoff and Johnson discuss are "orientational metaphors." Here, it is where we relate hings to being either up or down. For example, happy would be up, and sad would be down. Or health and life would be up, and sickness and death would be down. This gives us orientation in our lives. It is also a much overlooked idea that many people, myself being one, wouldn't even really think to classify as a metaphor, but "they have basis in our physical and cultural experience." Their emphasis on metaphor throughout their passage, allows us to analyze our use of language, as well as how we characterize our thoughts and actions.

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