Understanding the Figure of speech, "Metaphor" - Prince Wekpa


Metaphor can easily be defined as the literary device that presents unreal perception through writing. By this reference, metaphor becomes the expression that describes one thing in terms of another.

We have the simple forms of such expressions in our daily conversations, though they are overused. A good example of such simple metaphor is, 

"He is a lion"

It thus foregrounds the image of a lion in the perceptive faculty, even when it is not real. We all know that the lion referred here  is not real; instead it connotes similitude of actions (habitual or not), behaviour or mannerisms which are attributes of lions.

Simple metaphorical expressions apart, there are  others as complex metaphor, dead metaphor, diminishing metaphor, stale metaphor and finally, grammatical metaphor.

We perceive 'destroying' as a (whole lot of) process, which will involve an agent (the destroyer) and the thing destroyed (the sufferer) as well as the action (the process of destroying itself). Thus, the conventional and natural way to express this is to look for a VERB, which by its nature expresses a process, in order to capture our perception of 'destroying'. So, we'll normally say:

_Nnaji *destroyed* his bike. It wasn't fair_

In this case, the sentence matches our perception of 'destroying' as a whole process, with an agent, the  process itself and the sufferer. Thus, since the expression or clause (or grammar) matches our perception, it is therefore a literal or congruent clause, congruent because it corresponds to our perception.

However, when we then reduce or conceptualise this whole process (which would have been a clause containing several words: at least, the agent/subject, the process/verb and the sufferer/object) as just a mere *thing* by nominalising it, then it no longer matches our perception:

_The destruction wasn't fair._

You see, a whole clause of process has been condensed and expressed as a thing. Thus, since it's no  longer congruent with our perception, then it becomes metaphorical, hence a grammatical metaphor.

Similarly, the idea of bathing is perceived as a process and not a thing. So, we'll normally say, 'I bathed.' What if we now make it a noun, 'I took a bath'? In this latter case it is now conceptualised as a thing, thus a grammatical metaphor. Even the word 'take' in 'I took  a bath' has lost its literal (dictionary meaning) and has been used in a different metaphorical way.

So, both the verb 'take' and the noun 'bath' have been used metaphorically. These are examples of dead metaphors, dead because they have so long been used that we tend to forget that they're metaphorical, or they not literally used. See also the expression, 'Pay attention'.

Look at how the word 'pay' has been used, literal or metaphorical. In the same way, when you say, 'take care', it is another example of grammatical metaphor. For confirmation, you may check the use of 'take', literal or metaphorical?


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