1. waitingforzion

    waitingforzion Banned

    Dec 13, 2009
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    How do metaphors really work?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by waitingforzion, Apr 1, 2014.

    I have never understood the concept of a metaphor the way I've come to understand it the past few days. I just realized the descriptive power they have. But I am still a little confused about the way they work and how to use them.

    One thing I am thinking about is the implied metaphor. I read that you can use a verb that pertain to a certain thing, and apply to that a subject, and have it treat the subject as if it were that thing. I wonder if you can also do that with the object. For instance, I was writing a poem, (a lousy poem), and I wanted to express the concept of the reader resting in the fact that I wasn't going to bother them with words anymore. So I wrote this line, "Lay upon my silence." As if silence were like a bed or a pillow. I wonder if that is an acceptable metaphor. The strange thing is that how could anyone be sure it was a bed or a pillow since it could be anything else one might lie on. Maybe I should have said, "Rest upon my silence."

    Anyway, I don't know how words work together to create a metaphor. I want to know all the different ways that words can shape them. I want to know precisely, on both a linguistic and a cognitive level, how they work. I know there are numerous linguistic devices. In one of them, a part is used to represent the whole. Maybe this is not a metaphor, but it has to do with figurative language. I want to know all of it.

    Also, I would like to know what are the best ways to go about strengthening skills with metaphors? I noticed an increase in the connections I was making after I practiced for a little while. Is this an indicator of anything?
  2. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

    May 1, 2008
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    Puerto Rico
    What you mention is definitely figurative language but I don't think it's exactly a metaphor in the most technical sense, though I caveat by adding that it feels a bit like a conceptual metaphor and may well be. A standard metaphor would need a clearer syntactic delivery of this is that, but never this is like that. The latter is a simile, obviously. I think a good way to strengthen the use of metaphor is to resist the urge to use similes. Similes are much more common and work-a-day, if you think about it. We compare this to being like that all the time in order to express things for which we lack words or for when it's just easier to make a comparison of the known with the less-well-known. It's a common piece of abstract thought. But a metaphor is a much more committed image. You have to really sell it and it has to be sellable because you are hazing the line of logical reality when you say this is that. Where you feel a simile flowing from you pen, look back and see if the image is strong enough to sell as metaphor. Not like, but is.

    Yes, you can. For example: I shut him down to mean to stop a person's line of discourse or conversation. It treats the object (him) as a metaphorical machine, tho never actually mentioned. The verb structure is so clearly tied to the metaphoric (tho syntactically absent) machine that the implication is unavoidable that the object (him) is being thought of as a machine that has been turned off.
  3. Maxitoutwriter

    Maxitoutwriter Member

    Aug 22, 2012
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    You're over thinking it too much. At first don't worry if it is correct or not. HAVE FUN with it! :) It's an art to create metaphors. Like think of some metaphors to describe love:

    "I stood at the edge of love's cliff, put to silence by the beauty and hoped I never fell."
    "She has been cut into my heart as names carved into a tree."

    Clearly, you're not standing on the edge of a cliff when in love and neither has anyone cut into my heart (You would die from that), but it makes the writing more interesting, and it can convey far more money (This was a typo, but maybe that's a metaphor too? o_O) to the mind than describing love in logical, realistic terms.

    Metaphors in writing, when you get good at it, can help you to convey a certain mood:

    "That old drunkard squawked about like a chicken with its head cut off." (That's a simile, but it was too good for me to resist making another one, lol)

    They're a very useful tool to have in writing.

    To practice, I would pick a specific daily number and write them about a specific topic or to describe something. You can create metaphors for literally anything. It can help you to describe something or give something a greater meaning. Metaphors are a very powerful tool that brings writing to life. That there, is another metaphor that is common(Writing to life. Clearly the writing is not living). It's fun to come up with your own though and stray off the path of the commonly tread(Another metaphor. Clearly there is not a path, lol).
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2014
  4. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

    Mar 9, 2010
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    When you refer to metaphors, I'm assuming that you're referring to all devices by which one thing is equated to another thing--metaphors, similes, analogies, and any others that I may have forgotten. I don't think that this is something that supports the level of precision and detailed analysis that you're seeking.

    But that doesn't mean that it isn't worth some observation and study. Practicing is good, and you could also search for metaphors in reading and everyday speech.

    For example: Blanket of snow. Couch potato. Sacred cow. Windfall profits. Make hay while the sun shines. Digest the idea. Too green for the job. Light of my life. Get back on the horse. Rip off the Band-Aid. Gateway drug. Burning the midnight oil. Seed of an idea. Sugary words. Sour expression.

    And so on.
    Andrae Smith likes this.
  5. David K. Thomasson

    David K. Thomasson Senior Member

    Feb 26, 2013
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    Lynchburg, Virginia
    It's a huge topic with research and theories going clear back to Aristotle. Here's a nice little discussion:

  6. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Nov 21, 2006
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    Coquille, Oregon
    first of all, unless it's in the past tense, it would have to be 'lie upon my silence' to mean what you intended...

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