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Ch. 5 - The Metaphor Metaphor 
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Post Ch. 5 - The Metaphor Metaphor
Ch. 5 - The Metaphor Metaphor

Please use this thread for discussing Ch. 5 - The Metaphor Metaphor.


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Post Metaphor Metaphor
I'm sorry, but I just can't help but start the discussion off for this chapter with a little humor:

In Chapter Five, Pinker writes, "All words have to be coined by a wordsmith at some point in the mists of history. In principle, any sound would have done --a basic principle of linguistics is that the relation of a sound to a meaning is arbitrary --so the first coiner of a term for a political affiliation, for instance, could have used glorg or schmendrick or mcguillicuddy. But people are poor at conjuring sounds out of the blue, and they probably wanted to ease their listeners' understanding of the coinage rather than having to define or illustrate it with examples. So they reached for a metaphor that reminded them of the idea and that they hoped would evoke a similar idea in the minds of their listeners, such as band or bond for a political affiliation."

LOL! Now I don't feel so bad for my mind immediately wondering to rather explicit thoughts after hearing the word "titillate" for the first time...



Sun Feb 03, 2008 8:44 pm
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In Chapter Five, Pinker also writes that "...The human mind can directly think only about concrete experiences: sights and sounds, objects and forces, and the habits of behavior and emotion in the culture we grow up in. All our other ideas are metaphorical allusions to these concrete scenarios. We can't think of political affiliations, for example, without calling to mind (perhaps unconsciously) some kind of glue or cord."

During my undergrad, I studied the Chinese language for one semester. Some of the first phrases you learn in any 101 foreign language course are "please" and "thank you." Well, "thank you" in Chinese is "xie-xie ni." This phrase literally translates into English as "one inch shorter." What does the measurement for length/height have to do with the meaning of "thank you" to the Chinese, you may ask? Well, in many Asian cultures, when you say "thank you," you concurrently bow your head, making you literally



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tlpounds says
[quote]Well, "thank you" in Chinese is "xie-xie ni." This phrase literally translates into English as "one inch shorter." What does the measurement for length/height have to do with the meaning of "thank you" to the Chinese, you may ask? Well, in many Asian cultures, when you say "thank you," you concurrently bow your head, making you literally


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After putting aside the book for several weeks, I whizzed through this chapter in a single setting. It helps that I've read three of George Lakoff's books: Metaphors We Live By, Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think, and Don't Think Of An Elephant!

Pinker introduces and considers the accuracy of the "metaphor metaphor": thinking in terms of metaphors as a model of the human mind. While Pinker finds value in Lakoff's ideas, he views metaphor as less fundamental than Lakoff does. Pinker argues that metaphors express concepts that have a fundamental meaning outside of the metaphor and takes issue with the relativistic implications of Lakoff's claims.

My opinion is somewhere in between Lakoff's and Pinker's, in part because I'm more amenable to relativism than Pinker is. Lakoff makes a strong case that metaphor is intrinsically tied to the way we think about abstract concepts. The framing of political arguments, for example, as greater consequences than Pinker acknowledges. On the other hand, as Pinker believes, metaphor does tap into deeper concepts and emotional reactions that exist outside the metaphor.



Tue Feb 19, 2008 10:04 am
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