metaphors – philosophical

Another type of metaphor usually referred to with little admiration is the dead metaphor; a metaphor which has been absorbed into everyday language usage and has become naturalized, so that most language users are not aware of it as a metaphor any more. Common examples include the food of a bed, the foot of a page, a table leg, the arm of a chair; usages so everyday that their metaphorical origins are forgotten.

It is possible to bring dead metaphors back to life however.Two ways this can happen are through poetry and through politics.

Politically motivated resuscitation

This happens quite frequently and today is often called political correctness. For e.g., the word black has all sorts of negative associations in English in its metaphorical usages, which are not linked with its literal meaning of a colour. A lot of people find expressions such as to blacken someone’s name, blackleg, blacklist, black magic, a black look, black hearted, or the black market racially offensive. In an effort to dispel, these connotations, phrases such as black is beautiful were coined. Writers such as Toni Morrisson, the Nobel prize winning black writer use positive and beautiful images in association with black skin, working against a whole tradition of metaphorical language usage.

Another area is when words develop a range of metaphorical meanings in English that are apparently not gender specific, but where their literal meaning is gendered. An e.g. is the word master, in the sense of to master something, or in the sense of an academic qualification: Master of Science. The literal meaning of master is a male person in authority, the male gendered equivalent of mistress(as in master and mistress of the house). Comparing the metaphorical usages of master to the metaphorical uses of mistress provides an illustration of what typically happens to gendered terms in English. When a male develops metaphorical meanings, these tend to be positive, while if the female term develops metaphorical meanings, they tend to be pejorative.

Tomorrow: Poetical resuscitation

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Posted on October 9, 2003, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Another example: wizard and witch.

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