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Descriptive Metaphors

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Old 07-06-2012, 09:36 PM
DwayneA (Online)
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Default Descriptive Metaphors


We see these all the time in fiction, used to describe character, thought, action, etc. Some examples include:

His face went red.
His heart skipped a beat.
My palms begin to sweat.
A chill went up his spine.
His nose flared.
His head is a shaven skull.

I'm sure you can think of many other examples.

Yet most of the time I'm clueless. I have no idea what most of these metaphors mean. For example, how can palms sweat and what does that mean? What does it mean when someone's heart skips a beat?

Can someone help me out here? Also, why do authors use these kinds of metaphors in writing? What's the point?

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Old 07-06-2012, 09:44 PM
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Well you see, the palms sweating is a metaphor for... palms being freakin' sweaty. It's... not even a metaphor. Most of those aren't.

Also, authors use metaphors to keep things interesting.
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Old 07-06-2012, 10:13 PM
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Originally Posted by DwayneA View Post
Yet most of the time I'm clueless.
I think ALL the time you're clueless. Those aren't metaphors.

Crash course in simile and metaphor.

This is what happened: He blushed; his face went red.

Simile is describing something by comparing it to something else.

Simile: His face looked like a beetroot.

Metaphor is to describe something by calling it something else.

Metaphor: His face was a beetroot.
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Old 07-07-2012, 08:53 AM
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yeah but if his face is a beetroot, does that mean he literally has a beetroot for a face? And what exactly does a beetroot look like?
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Old 07-07-2012, 06:10 PM
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Originally Posted by DwayneA View Post
yeah but if his face is a beetroot, does that mean he literally has a beetroot for a face? And what exactly does a beetroot look like?
No metaphor can describe the feelings I'm feeling right now. This is an ignorance on a level of its own.
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Old 07-07-2012, 09:29 PM
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A simple answer. English is not mathematics. In mathematics, 2 + 2=4. But in english, 2 + 2=4, 2 + 2 =5 or 2 + 2 =100. Everything can be true.

There are hence two basic ways to look at the sentence:

Literally and Metaphorically.

It generally always how we should look at a sentence.

So, his face was beetroot. It is obvious that no human has beetroot as a face. So, we don't look at it literally and think Metaphorically.

Beetroot. So metaphorically it means its face has resembleness to the qualities of beetroot.

Beetroot is red, so his face is red.
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Old 07-09-2012, 01:26 AM
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Some good points here, but is there a non beetroot-related methaphor that could be used as an example instead?
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Old 07-09-2012, 01:40 AM
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This thread is a parsnip
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Old 07-09-2012, 08:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Lin View Post
This thread is a parsnip
what the heck is that supposed to mean?
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Old 07-09-2012, 08:51 AM
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That question was a depleted unicorn
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Old 07-09-2012, 08:54 AM
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This got me thinking.

Maybe the first time somebody called someone an asshole, it was a metaphor.
But now it no longer is.
When did the change take place?
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Old 07-09-2012, 09:26 AM
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Originally Posted by DwayneA View Post
yeah but if his face is a beetroot, does that mean he literally has a beetroot for a face? And what exactly does a beetroot look like?
Do yourself a favour, Dwayne. Stick to colouring in. Try not to go over the lines.
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Old 07-09-2012, 09:49 AM
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Thank you, Dwayne, for giving us all a moment here to examine our assumptions about how different people process information. Some of us do process information more literally than others, for a variety of neurological reasons, many of which have nothing to do with being an asshole or one's ability to "stay in the lines."

I do commend you, however, for your honest question, and it makes perfect sense if you are curious about metaphor to ask a group of writers.

I don't know if helps you, but similes and metaphors are comparing two things in order to illustrate their similarities. If someone's face is (like) a beetroot, the implication is they are both red. However, these literary devices are not necessary in writing, and honestly, they just don't intuitively make sense to a lot people. So again, I think it's admirable to want to understand something that doesn't make intuitive sense to you.
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Old 07-09-2012, 09:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Lin View Post
This thread is a parsnip
Stop the thread. It's a TKO.
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English is a strange language. It can be understood through tough thorough thought though.
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Old 07-09-2012, 01:06 PM
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I agree. My Grandmother used to make us eat parsnips. Awful. The smell alone is enough to knock you out.
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Old 07-09-2012, 10:44 PM
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here's another example that just doesn't make sense to me:

"His legs are a mile apart."

What the hell?
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  #17  
Old 07-09-2012, 11:29 PM
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Well, the amputated one got kind of lost. What is it you don't understand here?
Girls do have their legs apart sometimes.
Someday you might find out about that.

Maybe.
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Old 07-10-2012, 01:44 AM
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Originally Posted by courtney_autumn View Post
However, these literary devices are not necessary in writing...
That's a pretty dumb thing to say.

Mataphor is a cornerstone of the English language. You may no be aware of when you are using one, they're so deeply ingrained in how we speak and write. More than almost any other language, English would be stifled if all metaphors were hunted down and removed. And if you don't believe me, how many metaphors are in my post?
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Old 07-10-2012, 04:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Mike C View Post
That's a pretty dumb thing to say.
Actually, that's an even dumber thing to say. Wow, you demonstrated your use of metaphor, I'm impressed. So what? No, it's not necessary in writing. There many writers of fiction and non-fiction and even poetry that don't rely heavily on metaphor, or use it at all.

The original poster has explained many times that he Asperger's syndrome, which means he's wired in a way that metaphor doesn't make sense to him the way most of use take for granted. Does that mean can't or shouldn't write? Well, I don't think so and he wouldn't be the first person on the autism spectrum to do so.

Last edited by courtney_autumn; 07-10-2012 at 04:56 AM..
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Old 07-10-2012, 05:10 AM
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Originally Posted by courtney_autumn View Post
Actually, that's an even dumber thing to say. Wow, you demonstrated your use of metaphor, I'm impressed. So what? No, it's not necessary in writing. There many writers of fiction and non-fiction and even poetry that don't rely heavily on metaphor, or use it at all.
I'd be curious to hear of a writer who has managed to never write down a single metaphor in anything they've ever written. I can't imagine that being the result of anything less than a deliberate effort, and a needlessly idiotic one at that.
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Old 07-10-2012, 07:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Jinjonator View Post
I'd be curious to hear of a writer who has managed to never write down a single metaphor in anything they've ever written. I can't imagine that being the result of anything less than a deliberate effort, and a needlessly idiotic one at that.
Well, the Modernists were generally wary of metaphor and eschewed it in much of their writing. This isn't to say modernist works are devoid of metaphor, but the style is comparatively straight forward.

A few other writer who come to mind who use metaphor sparingly: Hemingway, Carver, Bukowski...

More recently, there was a novel published a few years ago called The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time written from the point of view of an autistic person and the style distinctly lacks metaphor. It's a fascinating rather than idiotic perspective.

Also, Temple Grandin is a science writer specializing in animal husbandry. She's autistic and her writing is quite literal.
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Old 07-10-2012, 07:09 AM
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Nice to see this thread is still on topic.
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Old 07-10-2012, 07:44 AM
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Originally Posted by DwayneA View Post
here's another example that just doesn't make sense to me:

"His legs are a mile apart."

What the hell?
Try looking at the word that is out of place and think of the definition of that word. Mile is a distance - is it an unreasonable or long distance for legs to be apart? Yes it is.

So the sentence could read: He had his legs spread further than normal.

The famous saying ''When life throws you lemons make lemonade.''

Lemons are bitter (to many people a nasty thing not to mention it may hurt). Lemonade is usually sweet and pleasant. So another way of saying it would be: when life is going badly, find the positive.

As Courtney Autumn pointed out it isn't necessary for you to understand a literary device in order to use it. A lot creep in unconsciously as we write.

Things like Mike's cornerstone and ingrained have now gained meanings in everyday life. It is natural to use them.

Last edited by AnyaKimlun; 07-10-2012 at 07:47 AM..
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Old 07-10-2012, 08:52 AM
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"We modernists."

Don't know whether to call that a metaphor or anachromism.

"Modern" is so passe. You want to see modern in action, watch Mad Men.

Something I have never been able to figure out is how doggedly blank anti-poetic verse and vague abstraction in painiing and Marxist thought (if you'll excuse that metaphoric oxymoron) are still considered modern and up to day and hip a hundred years later.

The idea that use of metphor is some fancy egghead literary gimmick is just to peculiar to deal with with a straight face.
Daily, quotidian, hoi-polloi usage abounds.
Outside of maybe some university Don't Think Tank stalag somewhere.

But maybe I missed it by a mile. Maybe it's a Blue State thing. Maybe it makes my eyes bleed and is a poin in the ass.
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Old 07-12-2012, 12:45 AM
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Originally Posted by courtney_autumn View Post
Actually, that's an even dumber thing to say.
Try to keep up. Metaphor makes the language work. It is impossible to use english without employing metaphor, even if you don't know you're doing it.

If the OP is never going to understand metaphor, it makes no difference. He will still be using it, even if he's not using it creatively.
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Old 07-12-2012, 12:47 AM
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Originally Posted by courtney_autumn View Post
Well, the Modernists were generally wary of metaphor and eschewed it in much of their writing. This isn't to say modernist works are devoid of metaphor, but the style is comparatively straight forward.

A few other writer who come to mind who use metaphor sparingly: Hemingway, Carver, Bukowski...
Fascinating insight. Some people use less metahor than others. Duh, who'd a thunk it?
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Old 07-12-2012, 12:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Lin View Post
Don't know whether to call that a metaphor or anachromism.
Anachronism. Even post-modernism is dated. Hell, even the futurists are living in the past.
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Old 07-12-2012, 07:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Mike C View Post
Try to keep up. Metaphor makes the language work. It is impossible to use english without employing metaphor, even if you don't know you're doing it.
You've clearly never worked much with an ESL population. It makes you realize very quickly how much we depend on idiom and metaphor in our language. However, in order to communicate effectively with a diverse body of non-native speakers, it's imperative to avoid figurative language. No, sir, it's not impossible.

As far as taking into consideration how various literary movements have influenced how we use and understand language, how is this anachronistic?
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Old 07-12-2012, 08:31 AM
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Actually, I have worked with ESL populations. What with being born and educated in Asia, living the last 20 years in Latin America, teaching English in four countries.

Oh, and "idioms". I've authored 4 books on them.

And based on that, I'd have to say, you're full of shit. Many of the first words and phrases foreign speakers use are metaphoric.

And sorry, no matter how much your cult might require to think that, those clunky old poems you cite haven't influenced the way we "use and understand language". By any stretch of even the most compromised imagination.

Do the "post college adolescence cleansing". Learn to separate yourself from what your lame profs told you and strike out on your own.
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