Metaphor

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Alice D, Aug 4, 2007.

  1. Alice D New Member

    Shanghai China
    China Chinese
    Hello! how to explain the word "metaphor"? My foreign teacher has explained it to me ,but i still can't understand.
    "Once upon a time a pencil wanted to write a poetry but it didn't have a point.One day a boy put it into the sharpener,and in place of a point,a river appeared."
    What do these metaphor sentences mean?
     
  2. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    New York
    USA - English
    No, those are not "metaphors".

    A metaphor is a figure of speech in which one thing is compared to another, although without the use of the words "like" or "as":

    My wife is a rare jewel; she is the shining star of my life.

    To call a woman a "jewel" or a "star" is to use metaphor.

    I do not like either Tom or Bill. Tom is a fat pig, and Bill is a dishonest, evil snake.

    It is a metaphor to call a man a "pig" or a "snake".

    A simile is like a metaphor, but the terms "like" or "as" are used:

    Mary is as beautiful as a rose, and as sweet as honey.

    It must have been cold outside; I touched your hands and they are like ice.
     
  3. Alice D New Member

    Shanghai China
    China Chinese
    Those are not metaphors? oh, i see. Thanks a lot.
    so "political fallout" ,"toxic gumbo", "road map to peace" ,are these metaphors? what do these mean?
     
  4. Matching Mole

    Matching Mole Senior Member

    England, English
    There is a metaphor in the first sentence, but it is so well-established that we don't immediately think of it as one. In this case the metaphor is exploited to make a pun, a double entendre (a word having two meanings) on the word "point". The literal meaning being a sharp tip, and the metaphorical one meaning purpose or object. This sentence also uses personification: treating a pencil as if it were a person, which I guess is a kind of metaphor, but not what one would normally think of as such.

    However, I think the sentences as a whole are not examples of metaphor as such (the second sentence has no meaning that I can discern).

    Fallout, gumbo and road map are all metaphors. Fallout is literally the radiation from an atomic explosion, as a metaphor it means the after effects of some action or event. Gumbo is a soup, used as a metaphor to mean a liquid mixture, but not literally an edible one; road map is used to mean a plan, but not of literal roads but of a series of actions towards a particular goal (goal is also a metaphor), usually a political one.

    Our everyday language is stuffed with metaphors, we can hardly avoid them.
     
  5. Alice D New Member

    Shanghai China
    China Chinese
    thank you very much !!
     
  6. JeffJo Senior Member

    USA
    USA, English
    The word "metaphor" can be used, broadly, to refer to any figurative speech. More narrowly, and properly, it has the meaning already mentioned.

    The word 'like' or 'as' is not necessarily explicit in a simile, by the way. In what GreenWhiteBlue wrote, "My wife is a rare jewel," that statement is actually a simile. The "is" means 'is like.' A simile is an explicit assertion of analogy, whether the words 'like' or 'as' appear, or not.

    - My love is like a red, red rose.
    - My love is a red, red rose.

    Those statements are the same, unless the second one is taken literally, which would be absurd. They're the same figure of speech, and the difference is only that 'like' is left unstated in the second one.

    In metaphor (narrowly speaking) a substitution occurs. The phrase 'atomic fallout' would be literal, while the phrase "political fallout" is metaphorical. Substituting "political" for 'atomic' turns it into a figure of speech. The difference between simile and metaphor is that metaphor makes only an implicit analogy. In the phrase "political fallout" there's no explicit statement that political things are like atomic ones.

    Then there's synecdoche, and metonomy, and who knows what else, and you'll get arguments, even among experts, on exactly which is which. :)
     
  7. cycloneviv

    cycloneviv Senior Member

    Perth, Western Australia
    English - Australia
    I'm more than a bit dubious about your definition of a metaphor, JeffJo, I'm sorry to say! I've looked at my own grammar books and the guidelines of universities and the like on-line, and all support this definition:

    It is often quite simple to change similes into metaphors and metaphors into similes. For example, when Robert Burns (1759-96) wrote
    “O my love’s like a red, red rose”
    he was using a simile. If he had written “O my love is a red, red rose” however, he would have been using a metaphor.

    (Quoted from http://intranet.belperschool.co.uk/v2/subjects/english/extrahomework/metaphor.php)

    This link is also interesting.
     
  8. JeffJo Senior Member

    USA
    USA, English
    I know about that, yes. And it's wrong. ;) The difference between simile and metaphor is more than simply whether the word 'like' is expressly stated. Burns' line is simile whether 'like' is openly stated or not.

    It is not the case that a simile is a metaphor in which the word 'like' is used.
     
  9. cycloneviv

    cycloneviv Senior Member

    Perth, Western Australia
    English - Australia
    Fair enough. I'm still very dubious, I have to say, since every other reference I have found so far has basically said the same thing. I didn't want to post a whole stack of links (including the Cambridge Dictionaries Online) in my post.

    Ah, I spoke slightly too soon, as I think I see where you are coming from when I look at this link, which discusses two opposing theories regarding the definition of a metaphor. (EDIT - By the way, I only browsed the beginning of this article, so am not certain that this covers your views on the definition of "metaphor". Please forgive me if I've made a connection that does not exist.)

    I feel the need to mention, however, that the majority of English grammar guides define "metaphor" in the terms with which I am familiar, and as GWB described the term in an earlier post. :)
     
  10. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    This sounds like metaphorical language to me. It is difficult to talk about this example because it seems to be a translation from another language.

    Especially foreign is the use of articles in "to write a poetry" and "put it into the sharpener. There also seems to be a sentence missing.

    There may be more meaning or clearer metaphors in the original language, but I can say something about this English version:

    Saying "a pencil wanted to write" is personification, which one might argue is metaphor but of a very special type. "It didn't have a point" is double entendre, which could conceivably be called a metaphor, but is more accurately called a pun.

    There could be an extended metaphor in here somewhere. That's a series of metaphors that make sense together with more than one meaning. I have a fondness for extended metaphors when properly constructed and not of the "inside joke" variety.

    "In place of a point, a river" suggests more than one way that "point" can be a metaphor (the term antanaclasis comes to mind), but "river" doesn't jibe with the idea of a literal pencil point (is a catachresis a metaphor?). Besides the literal pencil point, "point" could mean a period (full stop) and the "river" could be a line drawn by the pencil (that is, by the person operating the pencil, more personification). Or the "point" may be either a stopping point or whatever point the pencil "wanted" to make, with the "river" being a whole argument or a dissertation.

    Or does it say that a sharp writer will be able to overcome writer's block?
     
  11. Alice D New Member

    Shanghai China
    China Chinese
    Uh``````JeffJo, you just said"The difference between simile and metaphor is that metaphor makes only an implicit analogy." This makes me feel interrogative.Can you give more examples?Thanks a lot.
     
  12. Alice D New Member

    Shanghai China
    China Chinese
    How about "The idea Cookbook can be a useful teaching resource both for novice as well as for experienced teachers who want some recipes in order to make their classes more varied and interesting."Any metaphors there?
     
  13. JeffJo Senior Member

    USA
    USA, English
    A simile is an express statement of analogy. If X is like Y, or is thought to be like Y, that's an analogy. The statement that X is like Y would be a simile (if the statement is figurative, not literal. A literal statement of analogy would not be any figure of speech.)

    Sometimes the word "like" is mandatory, and sometimes it isn't.

    - Her tears fell like rain.

    The word 'like' is mandatory there, because "Her tears fell rain" would make no sense.

    - My wife is like a red, red rose.
    - My wife is a red, red rose.

    The second sentence expresses the same idea as the first. In both cases an analogy is openly expressed (unless the second sentence were taken literally, which would be absurd. It's doubtful the man has literally married a rose - and we are speaking of figurative language.) Both sentences are similes, since both expressly state an analogy, between the wife and the rose. In the second sentence the word 'like' has merely been left unstated.

    As to a metaphor being an implied comparison, or analogy, that's straight out of the dictionary. In metaphor, the express statement of analogy is skipped, and one goes ahead and applies the terms of Y to X.

    - Politics is like an atomic explosion. (simile - and the word 'like' is optional there.)
    - The political fallout of the President's decision is yet to be known. (metaphor.)

    The second sentence, taken by itself, skips the express analogy, and goes ahead and applies the terms of atomic explosion to politics. That's metaphor. It would be surprising, and unheard of, if a news story included the first sentence before using the second one.

    - She sailed the uncharted waters of her English textbook.

    That's metaphor. The textbook is being compared to the ocean, but the analogy is not openly expressed. The speaker has simply gone ahead and applied oceanic terms (sailing, uncharted waters) to the textbook.
     
  14. JeffJo Senior Member

    USA
    USA, English
    By the way, Wikipedia does mention that a simile can leave the word 'like' or 'as' unstated, but unfortunately, the example they choose to try to illustrate that is actually a metaphor. :( So it goes.
     
  15. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    I would call "Cookbook" and "recipes" metaphors in this sentence, because ideas are not literally cooking ingredients or a type of cuisine.
     
  16. Arrius

    Arrius Senior Member

    Spain
    English, UK
    a boy put it into the sharpener
    Somebody said that this sentence was wrong. It looks perfectly alright to me.
     
  17. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    I said the article is part of what makes this little story sound foreign. If the context mentioned a pencil sharpener beforehand, it would be fine, but without that context, "the sharpener" sounds foreign to my ear, though not as foreign as "a poetry". I would say "a sharpener". There also seems to be something strange about expecting a point from merely putting the pencil into the sharpener.

    Well, maybe substituting putting the pencil in for putting it in, holding it steady, and turning the handle (or pressing the switch) is a kind of synecdoche. Is that a metaphor?

    Let me clean up the sentences a little, and let's get back to finding the meanings and metaphors:

    "Once upon a time a pencil wanted to write some poetry, but it didn't have a point. A boy put it into a sharpener, but in place of a point, a river appeared."
     
  18. Harry Batt

    Harry Batt Senior Member

    Minneapolis
    USA English
    Synecdoche defined: a figure of speech by which a part is put for the whole (as fifty sail for fifty ships), the whole for a part (as the smiling year for spring), the species for the genus (as cutthroat for assassin), the genus for the species (as a creature for a man), or the name of the material for the ta figure of speech by which a part is put for the whole (as fifty sail for fifty ships), the whole for a part (as the smiling year for spring), the species for the genus (as cutthroat for assassin), the genus for the species (as a creature for a man), or the name of the material for the thing made (as willow for bat) -- compare thing made (as willow for bat) --

    I use figurative language extensively but come up short changed when I have to take a turn at defining its grammatical texture; similie, metaphor, or whatever. When I first looked at "Once upon a time a pencil wanted to . . . ." it was James Joyce that came to mind. But, certainly this is not stream of consciousness, is it? I think the problem is as Forero fears; that it sounds like a translation from a foreign language. I can't define our pesky sentences with a mot juste -- just the right word--but it seems to me when one word represents another a metaphor is involved. Eg., a pencil point river.
     
  19. Harry Batt

    Harry Batt Senior Member

    Minneapolis
    USA English
    We are not trying to tally votes for "metaphor," are we? If we were I would agree with Arrius that it looks all right.
     
  20. falderal New Member

    Canada, English
    "Once upon a time a pencil wanted to write a poetry but it didn't have a point.One day a boy put it into the sharpener,and in place of a point,a river appeared."

    I think Forero is approaching the point of these words. The pencil is nothing without the writer, and has nothing to say. The sharpener is the boy's mind, which sharpens points, while the river is the flowing graphite line of (poetic) cursive handwriting. The pencil point is worn away in the process ("in place of a point, a river appeared"), and the result is the conversion of one's well-focussed argument (point) into a smooth-flowing poetic form (river).

    While clearly there are translation issues with aspects of the sentence, little seems damaged since metaphor itself translates very well.
     

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