On Jan 25, 2010, at 10:57 PM, alex wrote:
2010/1/25 Richard O'Keefe <o...@cs.otago.ac.nz>:
When native speakers are no longer aware that it is a metaphor.
I think we can be influenced by metaphors without necessarily being
conscious of them.
We can be influenced by a whole lot of things, including apparently
the colour red. The question is whether we are influenced *enough*
to warrant our attention.
More to the
point, I think Blackwell's "violent events" metaphor is bogus,
on the grounds that (a) "impact" isn't necessarily _violent_
(the impact between two children's balloons is hardly violent)
I think that's why we don't generally talk about two ballons
I just did.
Can you imagine using the word impact to describe two
balloons bumping off one another at a children's party (without being
My M.Sc. is in physics, so *of course* I can.
Can you imagine a newsreader saying one aeroplane bumped
off another aeroplane before bursting into flames?
Since "to bump someone off" means to murder them, no.
You may have meant "bounced off", and no, in such a context
the bouncing would not be salient, the collision would.
The word used for one plane hitting another" is "collided".
When we talk about musical scales, who among us thinks of ladders?
Again, it's not at all about conscious thought but the structure of
concepts, which it's difficult to introspect about. Musical pitch is
a clear up-down orientational metaphor, so stepping up in pitch does
make a relation with going up a ladder rather supportable in my
You can go up and down without a ladder. Do not mistake talk of
verticality with talk of LADDERS. When people think of verticality
in connection with musical scales, it is because they think of
verticality in connection with *pitch*, not because of the word "scale"
(from "scala", a ladder, still found in "scaling" and "escalator").
Let me offer another approach.
Suppose X and Y are metaphorically related, with Y originally being
a metaphorical extension from X. If people's lives change so that
they are much more familiar with Y than X they will come to think
of Y as the basic term, and X as the metaphorical extension of Y.
Case in point: I had been using hash tables for _decades_ before
I ever met a "hash brown" or ate a "hash". For me, there simply
isn't any actual metaphor in "hash table".
It's like the way my children have picked up the vulgarism
"x sucks" from fellow pupils, and _all_ that it means to them
is "x is bad in some unspecified way". They vehemently deny,
in all sincerity that there is nothing rude about it, and to
them there isn't.
One of the assertions made by Lackoff and Johnson is that the idea of
a 'dead metaphor' is flawed. If a metaphor becomes engrained in a
language, and used without conscious discrimination, then rather than
it becoming 'dead', they assert that such a metaphor has become a
fundamental structure of thought in a culture and so is very much
alive. Of course the use of the word 'dead' here has always been
metaphorical, but perhaps that makes their point rather nicely.
There are at least two kinds of dead metaphor.
"hash table" is one. The words "to hash" and "table" are still
current in the English language.
"naked" is another. The word "to nake" is no longer current in
the English language. I cannot believe that "not having any
clothes on is an artificial state like a fruit being peeled" is
these days a fundamental structure of thought.
I tentatively assert that a metaphor can only exert an influence
on thought when it can be recognised as made of currently
Of course it is quite possible for dead metaphors to be reactivated.
Having read an English->Proto-Indo-European dictionary, it's now
hard for me to think of "black" without thinking of "like the ashes
after a blaze". But does anyone, Lakoff included, want to argue
that "to be black is to look like the aftermath of a fire" is
a fundamental structure of thought in _today's_ English-speaking
To adapt a metaphor, whether a metaphor can be "dead" or not,
a metaphor can certainly be BURIED, and I suggest that "naked" and
"black" are examples of buried metaphors.
There are empirical psychological tests for trying to get at
metaphorical relations between concepts. I don't know the literature
but have read that results have been mixed.
None the less, just because a term was a metaphoric, we can't really
claim that it affects someone's thinking until we have _demonstrated_
it by something like that.
It's also worth noting that our thinking can be equally affected
(infected?) by accidental sound resemblances that are _not_
actual metaphors. All sorts of things can spread activation.