A Big Shout Out for Metaphors

I am aware some reading this are English teachers so will tread carefully. Nevertheless claiming no expertise in English does not mean I can’t have the occasional amateurish excitement about metaphors! Also a nice thing about having your own blog is you get to choose what you want to write.  

For some English is a second, third or even fourth language* and it may be that what I say may not make much sense. However recently I was saying goodbye to a friend returning to his homeland in Asia. English is not his mother tongue but his parting comment to me was that we will meet again ‘in two shakes of a lamb’s tail’. I don’t recall using or indeed knowing of that turn of phrase but having relatives who have sheep I knew what he meant. Such is the power of metaphors that you can feel what they mean.

“…how we think about our selves and our relationship to the world is already revealed in the metaphors we unconsciously choose to talk about it”.  

The Master and his Emissary, Iain McGilchrist. 

McGilchrist also says studies on the history and origin of words show metaphors have their roots in the body (particularly the hand) and how we experience the world through it. Seems to me to make sense. We experience the world through our body though I often think it’s all in my head. Even a word such as ‘attend’ which I never thought of as metaphor. McGilchrist again… 

“The hand is the vehicle of touch, as well as grasp, and therefore the origin of the metaphor of ‘tact’. In fact to attend means, precisely, to reach out a hand towards: we reach out – ‘ad-tend’ – in order to give, as well as to take”.

The heart of what I am saying is this. If you want a refreshing dose of reality and I still have your attention, grasp what I am trying to put forward and step up to the plate. Rein in dark moods, lighten up, harness your energies and rustle up some metaphors. On the other hand you might scoff at my ideas or observe it’s not your cup of tea.

On the face of it I should probably shut up and you take all this with a pinch of salt. 

* I suspect those who know other languages will have a richer body of metaphors.

5 thoughts on “A Big Shout Out for Metaphors

  1. Adrian Bowman

    Thanks, Allan. I relate to those ideas very strongly. In my 20’s I read a book (whose author and title I have forgotten!) which referred to language as ‘fossilised metaphor’. That phrase has stuck with me. It is quite surprising how much of language seems to be based on physical things – being uplifted – dilapidated (stones falling off, if you happen to know the latin word) – etc.


  2. Donald Grant

    I read this recently, from a “deep thinker”.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. mimacampbell

    Thanks for your blog, Allan. It gets the little grey cells working. What about metaphors in art and advertising,? I like Elisabeth’s painting, ‘The Big Picture’.

    Liked by 1 person

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