Writing as a metaphor

“Writing is playing God”

Lakof and Johnson discuss how one can understand the idea of an argument as being akin to war through the use of language: we attack arguments, his points are on target (4). Of course, a less violent metaphorical approach could be used. Perhaps instead of using a lens of warfare, the lens could be exchanged to one of scientific inquiry: he examined my arguments, his points were well researched. This is the power of metaphor, and is is more subtle than simple similes comparing one object to another. We use metaphor in language every day without realizing it is metaphor, as in the argument example above.

This is something George Orwell knew all to well. Some words, such as liquidate give an unbiased tone, while words such as inevitable or veritable are “used to dignify the sordid processes of international politics, while writing that aims at glorifying war usually takes on an archaic colour, its characteristic words being: realm, throne, chariot, mailed fist, trident, sword, shield, buckler, banner, jackboot, clarion,” (Orwell).

The point is that these words are in themselves metaphors. If I have liquidated the enemy, I am saying that I have killed them, but in the metaphor of a banker removing assets. If I have killed a deal, I am saying that I have decided not to make a purchase, but in the metaphor of soldier removing an enemy.

Writing is creating worlds

“There are no such things as synonyms!” he practically shouted. “Deluge is not the same as flood,” (Robbins 209).

In Jitterbug Perfume, the character who speaks this line immediately erupts with laughter. Or perhaps one could have said he violently laughed. Or one could have said laughter flooded from his lips. Or that a deluge of laughter dripped from his lips. Or that laughter rained down from his mouth. The point being that the connotation of each of these words is not the same, and creates a different emotional, and thus a different intellectual, effect on the reader, and thus a different truth. Meaning is created on a micro level, not just at the macro level of the work holistically.

Consider, as Lakof and Johnson continue in their work Metaphors We Live By, the concept of time (8). Is time something that is eternal, or is it a finite resource? Can time be wasted? It can if we say it can. This homework assignment is wasting my time. I could be doing something else. Or, is it merely using my time, thus implying that while I am temporarily occupied, the time itself still exists no less diminished in quality or quantity. In fact, to be using it implies there is effort involved, but this assignment has not taken much effort on my part. Perhaps it is only occupying my time the way a hobby would be (or the way a person occupies a home, giving a cozy aspect of “living” to this intellectual labor).

Writing is…

Consider the two answers given for the prompts “Writing is…”. They are the same, but they are not the same. To create worlds is to play god, afterall; creating worlds is what gods do. But the connotation of playing god is negative in the English language (associated with puppet masters, a disrespect for nature, and a megalomaniacal ego) , while the connotation of creating worlds is positive (associated with poetry, flowers, and Reading Rainbow). But in each case, I, the writer, have put an image in your head and influenced your perspective as if I have subtly tinted the lenses of your glasses toward one shade or another. There is no platonic truth in language, because to express an idea in language is to color it one way or another. A rose by any other name would not be a rose, even if every petal was the same, despite what Shakespeare’s immature lovers may have hoped. Simply click the links throughout the piece and see how each word is tied to a different image. Or, if you’re on YouTube, smash that button (a word tied to a more exuberant action, implying one must have been really excited to click it, creating more desire than initially existed).