[Air-L] metaphor

Cameron Adams C.L.Adams at kent.ac.uk
Wed Jul 2 04:57:51 PDT 2008

Kevin wrote:

>   Perhaps.  I'm not an expert in language or how languages evolve so
> I'm not in a good position to answer your question.  However, it seems
> to me that most metaphors are used with the explicit understanding
> that they are indeed metaphors and that understanding seems to supply
> some of their power and usefulness.  Words or phrases that are misused
> to the point where the "misuse" redefines the word or phrase seem very
> different from metaphors.

There is a popularly held belief that metaphor is just this sort of 
overt, playful or artistic use of language (ie your eyes are deep 
limpid pools).  However, there is a lot of research on this stuff and 
metaphor is far more subtle and pervasive than this.  Though most of us 
have no idea that broadcasting has anything to do with things other 
than media, it is still an agriculturally sourced metaphor.  Further, 
these unconsciously held metaphors seem to structure the way we think 
about the world in, perhaps, dramatic ways (ie complete cultural 
understandings about the structure of concepts, objects and/or 
actions).  Our medical system is full of these; even our understanding 
of the immune system appears to be metaphorically mediated.

That said, I think your question is pretty much "when does a metaphor 
cease being a metaphor?"  That depends on who you ask and is a big 
thing in metaphor research.  We may never know (and if we find out 
we'll probably keep it quiet until the funding runs out).


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