Christian Long

James Geary: Metaphorically Speaking

In TED Talks on April 26, 2010 at 9:40 pm

Reflection by ABBIE P.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

James Geary:  Metaphorically Speaking

“A figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance,” (Dictionary.Com) as opposed to “the process of giving a living being a name that belongs to something else.” (Aristotle).

Metaphor is usually seen as a comparison between two objects, but Aristotle’s definition poses something much larger than that. To give one thing a name that belongs to something else, to say that they are equal to one another. Juliet IS the sun. Of course, she isn’t literally the sun, but by associating her with it, she is all of the things that the sun consists of. By comparing Juliet to the sun, Romeo is saying that she is what gives off light, that she helps bring life to the world, but in only four words.

“Metaphor matters because it opens the door to discovery” (7:25)

Although I could never watch this video enough times to fully understand every word Geary says, this phrase stuck out to me.

He said many things that caught my attention, of course, but this one stuck. Without metaphor, everything would literally be what it is, there would be no discovery because everything would “be what [it] would seem to be” (The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland). Metaphor makes you think, it gives a deeper understanding of everything. Romeo saying that Juliet IS the sun is bigger than him just saying that she means a lot to him. She gives light to his life so that he can see through darkness, she gives him light and warmth of the heart. If he had merely said that she meant a lot to him, we wouldn’t get all of that.

One of Geary’s first statements is that “metaphor is a way of thought before it is a way with words,” which is completely true.

People think in Metaphor without even realizing it. When describing literally, there is usually a lot left up to interpretation. The book is red- but what shade of red? Is it blood red, dark red, or red as a rose? No matter which it is, there is something behind the description. Blood red and red as a rose are practically the same shade- but you wouldn’t describe the lips of one you love as blood red (unless you’re a vampire), because it would give off the feeling of death or injury. To say that one’s lips are as red as a rose is not merely because it sounds lovely, but because that persons lips are like the soft elegant petals of a rose. Not only a rose, but a red rose, to symbolize true love.

If metaphor was merely a way of speaking, then people would not think any way but literally, which would leave all lips red, and all thoughts bleak.


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