Metaphors play a significant role in our lives. We use them daily in our lives. They shape our lives. No one can deny the importance of language in terms of our existence on earth and metaphors are a major part of our language. We are so habitual of making use of metaphors that we do not even ponder over their meanings. Eaglestone explains about metaphors and their meanings in detail. This article elaborates the meaning of metaphors and the related concepts.
Metaphor roughly means “to transfer”. They transfer meaning by using a term to describe something else. George Lakoff and Mark Turner argue that metaphors transfer meaning from one conceptual structure to another and this develops our understanding as we are able to consider one domain in terms of another. For example, ‘life is a game of chess’ is a metaphor, which allows us to think about life as a game of chess. As we have to secure ourselves from losing in the game of chess, similarly we have to secure ourselves in our life. As in playing chess, we are to beat the obstacles that come in our way; same is the case with life. Metaphors also affect our lives as we use them unnoticeably in our daily routine.
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Metaphors make us think as sometimes they are used in an unfamiliar style. Sometimes, we take metaphors for granted as they are used so much that we forget that they are metaphors. The metaphors, which make us think are those, which use language in a disturbing or surprising manner. It means that a metaphorical sentence can be interpreted not only in one perspective but in many as L.P. Hartley uses the metaphor, ‘the past is a foreign country: they do things differently there’. Now, Hartley’s metaphor is quite questionable. It can be interpreted as we are not aware of our past or as our past does not accept us as it’s parted or we try not to accept our past as our own part. So, this metaphor is quite confusing. Such metaphors make us think. It is this quality of de-familiarising that makes us think.
As, we use so many metaphors in our daily lives, we are able to make some meaning of the new ones. The metaphors that we use without noticing are called ‘dead metaphors’. They appear to be true as people use them without thinking what they mean. We take their meaning for granted.
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Lakoff and Turner have coined a term, ‘basic conceptual metaphor’, which means the underlying metaphoric idea that generates a whole series of metaphors. For example, the metaphor, ‘life is a journey’ has generated the metaphoric ideas of something reaching crossroads, life’s road, stones in the pass way, getting sidetracked, turning points of life, doing things in round about ways, obstacles in one’s way and green signal for one’s life. This basic conceptual metaphor transfers meaning from one domain, our experience of journeys to another, our experience of life.
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The literary texts use the basic conceptual metaphor in new de-familiarising ways. They draw new ideas from old models and use language in an unusual, or in other words in a metaphorical way. These metaphors have the power to change the way we think about the world. For example, the metaphor, ‘life is a journey’ makes one believe that he will have obstacles in his life, will be allowed to make choices like crossroads and finally, he is going to reach a destination after his long journey of life. If anyone tries to divert him from his own thought choice, he will consider him or her his obstacle. Moreover, everyone does not have choices to make, sometimes; we have to accept what comes our way. According to Eaglestone, the metaphors we choose in order to interpret the world in fact shape how we interpret the world. He adds that we think in metaphors and they grasp our minds. Jacques Derrida describes the way metaphors grasp our mind as ‘metaferocity’. According to the concept of ‘metaferocity’, we do what metaphors make us to do.
So, metaphors have a strong impact on our lives. They make us think and we use those metaphors, which are closer to our description of life to explain ourselves. Literary texts are the pioneers of the concept of metaphors but we are all enslaved by them.
Eaglestone, Robert. (2002). Doing English: A Guide for Literature Students. London: Routledge.