Metaphors: Language That Bites Back!

What is a metaphor?
A metaphor, put simply, can be defined as a phrase which says one thing but has a different, more emphatic meaning.

Where does the word originate from?
Metaphor derives from the Greek word Metapherin, translated as Transfer. Hence, it makes sense that the meanings within metaphorical language can in fact be transfered into something different.

Lets clarify the above and take a look at the following example:

1. My brother is my rock.

Literally speaking, this sentence would translate as “My brother has all the qualities of a rock. He is hard, rough, solid and even, lives on the ground”. At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Hmm… Somehow, I’m not entirely sure that is what the speaker meant”. Going back to the importance of ‘Transfer’, we can now attempt to get a better idea of what example 1. means metaphorically. Perhaps what the speaker really meant, was that their brother is not ‘hard’ physically, but rather ‘mentally’. If this is the case, their brother must be someone who is reliable. Someone they can depend on. Maybe their brother is also brave, or strong etc. etc. Aha! Now I get it!

Lets look at a second example:

2. Our last family vacation was a taste of heaven.

For most readers, two peculiar words which stand out in the sentence above are ‘taste’ and ‘heaven’. So, where is ‘heaven’? Have the family been there in the past? How did they taste it? Is ‘heaven’ even eadible?!

Let’s slow down. Instead of focusing on these details literally, lets start thinking metaphorically. First, what do we know about ‘heaven’? For starters, it is an extremely religious word, however, it is often associated with things that are ‘heavenly’. That is, things of natural beauty and purity. These could also translate as ‘things that are nice’. So, the family must have had an extremely ‘nice’ vacation. Maybe they went to Hawaii and the weather was beautiful. Wherever they went, they clearly had a great time.

Now, what about ‘taste’. If ‘heaven’ is a place, above all, a physically untouchable place, then it is surely impossible to ‘taste’. A taste of heaven is clearly not the same as biting into a bagel and savouring it’s flavour with your tongue. Perhaps the speaker is actually referring to ‘an experience’. So, their last family vacation was actually a ‘nice experience’, or even a ‘beautiful experience’. That wasn’t so hard, was it?

Below are some additional metaphors you can interpet. Once you think you know their metaphorical meaning, try using them when speaking or even better, through writing!

3. My wife is the sunshine in my life.
4. Henry is a horse at the dinner table.
5. Abigail bought half the toy store when buying Christmas gifts for the kids.
6. Working with Richard is like spending a day with the devil.
7. The rollercoasters at Six Flags were insane.
8. Look at Phillip’s sweater. It’s loud enough to give anyone a headache.