This entry came out of a recent discussion with a friend on the value of metaphor and the role it plays in language and communication. He had been frustrated at his own use of metaphor because he felt it was the result of 'lazy thinking' on his part — that he stopped trying to describe something once he found a mostly-acceptable metaphor for it. He felt that metaphor tended to be less precise, and more prone to misinterpretation. He also suggested that anything communicated via metaphor could also be communicated without it — similar to a dictionary using other words to define a word (look, a simile!).
These were astonishing notions to me. Figurative language is so prevalent in our speech that often we don't even notice it. Many of our commonly accepted meanings of words are actually metaphoric in nature. To communicate without it would feel like writing with my left hand (I'm right-handed — and, by the way, another simile!). I found myself trying to explain why I felt that metaphor was so important, and why it was not only valuable, but often crucial to the conveyance of meaning and the evocation of feelings and concepts. After feeling unsatisfied that I had effectively communicated my thoughts, I typed "why metaphor" into Google — and found several articles that did an interesting job of articulating a few of the ideas that I was trying to get across. I present the following in no particular order (in fact, "Exhibit C" is probably the one that spoke to me the most). And then I follow up with a few more of my own thoughts below.
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