Conceptual metaphor

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A conceptual metaphor or cognitive metaphor is a metaphor which refers to one domain (group of ideas) in terms of another. For example, treating quantity in terms of direction:

  1. Prices are rising.
  2. I attacked every weak point in his argument. (Argument as war rather than enquiry or search for truth).
  3. Life is a journey.
  4. Love talked about as if it were war or competition.
  5. Time talked about as if it were a path through space, or a quantity that can be saved or spent or wasted.

The idea of a conceptual metaphor came from a book by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson in 1980: Metaphors we live by.

"The most recent linguistic approach to literature is that of cognitive metaphor, which claims that metaphor is not a mode of language, but a mode of thought". Donald Freeman.

A convention is to write conceptual metaphors in small capital letters, e.g. time is money, with the target domain (idea being referred to) first, here "money," and the source domain (terms used to refer to it) second.[1]

Political metaphors[change | change source]

  • eminence grise: literally, "grey man," from French. Colloquially, the power-behind-the-throne.[2] An official close to the president or monarch who has so much power behind the scenes that he or she may double or serve as the monarch.
  • figurehead: a leader whose powers are entirely symbolic, such as a constitutional monarch.
  • puppet government: a government that is manipulated by a foreign power for its own interests.
  • star chamber: a secretive council or other group within a government that possesses the actual power, regardless of the government's overt form.
  • character assassination: spreading (usually) manufactured stories about a candidate with the intent to destroy his or her reputation in the eyes of the public.
  • landslide victory: a huge victory for one side.
  • riding coattails: victories by local or state politicians because of the popularity of more powerful politicians.
  • grassroots: a political movement driven by the constituents of a community.
  • astroturfing: public relations campaigns in politics and advertising that try to create the impression of being spontaneous, grassroots behavior.
  • straw man: the practice of refuting an argument that is weaker than one's opponent actually offers, or which he simply has not put forth at all. A type of logical fallacy.
  • spin (public relations): a heavily biased portrayal of an event or situation.
  • witch-hunt: the hysterical pursuit of political enemies
  • bread and circuses: satisfaction of shallow or immediate desires of the populace at the expense of good policy; also, the erosion of civic duty and the public life in a populace.

There are many more, enough to prove the importance of the metaphor in our lives.

Notes[change | change source]

  2. This phrase originally referred to François Leclerc du Tremblay, the right-hand man of Cardinal Richelieu. Leclerc was a Capuchin friar who was renowned for his beige robe attire (beige was called "grey" in then)