Auld Lang Syne

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Metaphor is not just for poets, although it may be the poet's life blood

Yesterday my husband forwarded me an article on metaphor which I share in a link below. It is worth reading even if you are not a writer.

I admit that I think, speak, and operate in metaphor all the time. I see this as one of my strengths.

People often say to me, oh you have such a way with words or I've not thought about ___________ quite like that.  I am speaking in a metaphorical way, choosing comparative language or substituting an image or idea to make the idea, issue more pointed, clearer, relatable.

My kids used to accuse me or inserting drama when I did this. True enough if drama means heightening the conversation or my speech with metaphor. When I would say your room is a pig sty I did not mean that literally, but even at a young age they got that pig sty was not good. Later they understood the full meaning of pig sty and knew I meant to compare directly the dirty nature of their rooms to the mucky, icky place in a barnyard.

Two gestures of metaphor:

There are two types of metaphor. Direct and Comparative: your room is a pig sty (direct) or your room is like a pig sty (comparative... aka simile). The clue here is the use (or not) of comparatives such as like, as.

We hear metaphor in our daily lives, in advertising and political speeches and even in the music we enjoy.

(Direct metaphors)

She is sunshine on a cloudy day. When it's cold outside, she is the month of May.
(from My Girl) 


(similes/comparative metaphors)

He is behaving like a bull in a china shop. 

I wandered lonely as a cloud. 
(Wordsworth)

black as night

sweet as candy

sharp as a tack

guilty as sin

These are not obscure. They may be oblique however, choosing a different path to get to a truth. Sometimes comparative metaphors end up being clich├ęs due to overuse. Metaphor creation, therefore, can be a bit tricky.

There is another way to use a simile which is to emphasize by opposite:

clear as mud 

We all know mud is not at all clear, so we understand that these two words do not equate. That makes the argument for whatever the phrase refers to as being in fact unclear, murky, muddy.

Another way to examine metaphor in literature and in speech is to look at single words to find a controlling metaphor. 

A controlling metaphor is one that dominates (controls) an entire literary piece or is ubiquitous in a person's speech. For example, a character or a live person may refer to things in light of certain images or actions. Constant references to food for example may indicate the person sees life as a banquet. Depending on the tone of the piece or the tone of speech  that may further indicate that the person sees life as a banquet to which she/he is not invited. The use of controlling metaphor is a great way for a writer to enhance a scene or develop a character.

This literary device is frequently seen in poetry.  For poets, metaphoric diction, including controlling metaphor, is tantamount to creating intensity and deepening (expanding) meaning. 

Controlling metaphor is similar to extended metaphor, which extends over a large portion, but not all, of a literary piece. When you read the article linked below, be very careful not to confuse controlling metaphor with metaphor used to control. There is a difference.

For now, I absent myself to the kitchen where my side dish for Easter dinner is cooking like a champ. (mixed metaphor), which is a topic for another day, along with the way slang has evolved (or perhaps devolved) into or from metaphor.

Your assignment: READ the article


1 comment:

  1. not sure why this post came out in a white block... but not going to mess with it.

    ReplyDelete