Shared Experience, Shared Language: A Review of Lakoff and Johnson on Metaphor

Each of my efforts to write about George Lakoff and Mark Johnson’s Metaphors We Live By uncannily comprises a demonstration of its thesis.

As I started to plan my review, I wrote, I am late to the dance—referring to the fact that the book was published in 1980. As I began this very sentence, I was tempted to refer to the book I discovered only this summer. Previous drafts have included the idea that I devoured in two large gulps Lakoff and Johnson’s brilliant tour de force. However, as each phrase and clause entered my mind [does it ever stop?], I became aware that I was simply providing more and more evidence of the intricate arguments in the book.

Lakoff and Johnson denote the metaphors we live by in small caps; lacking those, I will use boldface. I clearly cannot express my admiration for their book without myself using metaphorical language, much of which fits their thesis about conceptual metaphors—i.e. that we think and communicate only via a consistent network of conventional metaphors grounded in our physical experience. In the italicized passages above, I have used the following metaphors, which we all share:

  • The scholarly conversation is a dance.
  • The written word is a hidden treasure.
  • Ideas are food.
  • Thoughts are light.
  • Argument is war.  Continue reading . . .

About justewordsblog

Call me Boz. I teach writing and literature at the community-college level. I love words, the Episcopal liturgy, and Bonaventure Cemetery, the novels of Thomas Wolfe, the films of Krzysztov Kieślowski, and the periodic table of Dmitri Mendeleev. I have visited Monument Valley, the Outer Banks, and the women on death row in North Carolina. I play the piano, formerly played the bassoon, and play at the mandolin and the flute. Although the darkroom in my house is temporarily out of service, I once developed and printed my own photographs there. I believe that words are the only means we have to connect with one another, and my passion is always to find the right one--and to help others do the same.
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