If you are serious about information responsibility, you need to understand how metaphor works, including how pervasive it is in ordinary discourse.
In his fine new book, “I Is an Other,” James Geary reports on linguistic research suggesting that people use a metaphor every 10 to 25 words. Metaphors are not rhetorical frills at the edge of how we think, Geary writes. They are at the very heart of it.
When talking about argument, we use war metaphors. When talking about time, we often use money metaphors. But when talking about money, we rely on liquid metaphors. We dip into savings, sponge off friends or skim funds off the top. Even the job title stockbroker derives from the French word brocheur, the tavern worker who tapped the kegs of beer to get the liquidity flowing.
Two cheers to David Brooks for writing about his from his influential perch at a regular columnist for the New York Times.
Of course, two cheers is one cheer short of what is customary. My problem is the headline (Poetry For Everyday Life), which tacitly supports the mistaken belief that metaphor is at its heart poetical. A thorough grasp of metaphor acknowledges that metaphor is a cognitive function, not merely a figure of speech, not merely the purview of poets and lyricists. Brooks gets this mostly correct in the body of his column, but I sure wish the headline didn’t mention poetry.