Mastery of Metaphor

Mastery of Metaphor

In school, they define metaphor as “A comparison of unlike things without using the words LIKE or AS.”

Along with that dreadfully unintuitive definition, they imply that metaphor is special & exotic—good for poets, but not for us humans.

Nothing could be further from the truth!


In fact, language *is* metaphor. We CONSTANTLY use one thing to represent another thing.

Example 1:
Up = Good; Down = Bad.

– Moving “up” in the world
– Feeling “low”
– “High” standards
– It’s “downhill” from here
– “Upstanding” citizens
– “Stooping” to his level is “beneath” me


Ex 2:
Cleverness = Sharp Object.🗡️
– A “razor-sharp” wit
– A “keen” mind
– “Incisive” critique
– She “cuts” to the heart of the matter
Ex 3:
Argument = War.💣
– He “attacked every weak point” in my argument
– She “shot down” my argument
– Your claims are “indefensible”

Metaphors are tied to our behavior. “Argument = War” supports the view that “argument” is combative.

Imagine instead using “Argument = Journey or Path”:

* “Walk me through” the argument
* “Follow it step by step”
* “Arrive” at a conclusion
* Don’t “veer off” onto a tangent


Or perhaps “Argument = A Construction Project”:

* “Build” an argument
* Build it on a strong “foundation”
* Show me its “components” & “structure”

Perhaps a household that changes its metaphorical understanding of “argument” could become more peaceful. 🕊️


In any case, there are many ways of communicating things, & metaphor always plays a role.

That’s why if you become a master of metaphor, your writing will get stronger.

For a paradigm-shifting cognitive adventure, study the classic Metaphors We Live By.


Photo by Uriel Soberanes on Unsplash