Metaphors in Speaking
Good morning, everyone.
Today we'll continue our discussion on the art of speaking, focusing on the use of metaphors in speaking.
Now, why do we need to talk about metaphors in speaking?
Well, according to research findings, we utter about six metaphors a minute.
And metaphorical thinking is essential to how we understand ourselves and others, how we communicate, learn, discover and invent.
Actually, metaphor is a way of thought before it is a way with words.
Now, to assist me in explaining this, I've enlisted the help of a man whose contributions to the field are so tremendous that he himself has become a metaphor.
I am, of course, referring to none other than Elvis Presley.
His All Shook Up is such a touching love song.
他的All Shook Up是一首非常感人的情歌。
It's also an example of how we inevitably resort to metaphor when we deal with anything abstract, like ideas, emotions, feelings, concepts, thoughts.
In this, Elvis is following Aristotle's classic definition of metaphor, that is, metaphor is the process of giving the thing a name that belongs to something else.
And this is the mathematics of metaphor.
X equals Y. It's very simple, isn't it?
This formula works wherever metaphor is present.
Elvis uses metaphor, and so does Shakespeare in this famous line from Romeo and Juliet, that is, "Juliet is the sun".
Now, here, Shakespeare gives the thing, Juliet, a name that belongs to something else, the sun.
In fact, whenever we give a thing a name that belongs to something else, we give it a whole network of analogies too.
We mix and match what we know about the metaphor's source, in this case; the sun, with what we know about its target, Juliet.
And metaphor gives us a much more vivid understanding of Juliet than if Shakespeare had literally described just what she looks like.
So, how do we make and interpret metaphors?
This might look familiar.
The first step is pattern recognition.
Metaphor is not just the detection of patterns; instead, it is the creation of patterns.
And the second step is conceptual synesthesia.
And what is synesthesia?
It is the experience of a stimulus received by one sense organ in another sense organ as well, for example like colored hearing.
People with colored hearing actually see colors when they hear the sounds of words or letters.
We all have synesthetic abilities.
And many of the metaphors we use every day are synesthetic.
For instance, silence is sweet; neckties are loud.
So metaphor creates a kind of conceptual synesthesia, in which we understand one concept in the context of another.
Let's move on to the third step, that is, cognitive dissonance.
There is a test called the Stroop test.
What you need to do is, identify as quickly as possible the color of the ink in which words of color are printed.
If you're like most people, you will experience a moment of cognitive dissonance when the name of the color is printed in a differently colored ink, for example, the word"red" is printed in blue ink.
Then you may wonder what the test intends to tell us.
Well, the test shows that we cannot overlook the literal meaning of words even when the literal meaning gives the wrong answer.
Stroop tests have been done with metaphor as well.
The participants had to identify, as quickly as possible, the literally false sentences.
They took longer to reject metaphors as false than they did to reject literally false sentences.
Because we cannot ignore the metaphorical meaning of words either, for example, one of the sentences was "Some jobs are jails."
Now, unless you're a prison guard yourself, the sentence "Some jobs are jails." is literally false.
Sadly, it's metaphorically true.
And the metaphorical truth interferes with our ability to identify it as literally false.
Metaphor matters because it's around us every day, all the time.
How and in what ways does metaphor matter?
Well, I'd say metaphor matters, first of all, because it creates expectations.
So pay careful attention the next time you read some financial news.
Agent metaphors describe price movements as the deliberate action of a living thing, as in"The NASDAQ climbed higher."
Object metaphors describe price movements as non-living things, as in "The Dow fell like a brick."
Researchers once asked a group of people to read market commentaries, and then predict the next day's price trend.
Those exposed to agent metaphors had higher expectations that price trends would continue.
And they had those expectations because agent metaphors imply the deliberate action of a living thing pursuing a goal.
If, for example, house prices are routinely described as climbing and climbing, higher and higher, people might naturally assume that rise is incessant.
Also, metaphor matters because it influences decisions by activating analogies.
Let me give you an example, which was actually an experiment.
A group of students was told that a small country had been invaded and had asked for help.
And they had to make a decision. What should they do?
Intervene, appeal to the United Nations, or just do nothing?
They were each then given one of the three descriptions of this hypothetical crisis.
Each of the three descriptions was designed to trigger a different historical analogy: World War II, Vietnam, and the third was historically neutral.
Those exposed to the World War II scenario made more interventionist recommendations than the others.
This shows that just as we cannot ignore the literal meaning of words, we cannot ignore the analogies that are triggered by metaphor.
Metaphor matters because it opens the door to discovery.
Whenever we solve a problem, or make a discovery, we compare what we know with what we don't know.
And the only way to find out about the latter is to investigate the ways it might be like the former.
Now we know that metaphor is ubiquitous, yet it's hidden.
But you just have to look at the words around you and you'll find it.
Ralph Waldo Emerson described language as "fossil poetry".
But before it was fossil metaphor.
And these fossils still breathe.
OK. Let me sum up today's lecture.
We've looked at how metaphor is defined, how people understand metaphors and how metaphors might influence people's expectations and decisions.
Before we call it a day, I'd like to walk you through a famous quote from Francis Bacon: "Some books are to be tasted, others swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested."
Well, how many metaphors are there in the statement?
That's your takeaway homework.