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You remember metaphors.

Perhaps the most eloquent:

"All the world's a stage."

Shakespeare compared the world to a stage to make his point that we're all actors in a play.

Apply an apt metaphor to the world today and you have a figure of speech that will live on.

Or is expecting that perfect set of words to sum up our times, in our Friday Lite language series, too heavy a burden?

Am I’m walking on thin ice?

Metaphors are comparisons that show how two things that are not alike in most ways are similar in one important way.

The big difference between a metaphor and a simile, which have always been joined at the hip, is that a metaphor doesn't use the word "like" or "as" as a simile does.

“Her smile affected me like a punch in the gut.”

A mixed metaphor is something else entirely:

“We could stand here and talk until the cows turn blue.”

It's a way of combining two unrelated metaphors.

Combining a metaphor with a malaprop, you have a malaphor.

“He’s a wolf in cheap clothing.”

With some of these examples, you can see why the metaphor, since Aristotle’s time, has been viewed as a secondary type of language.

Even though you can scarcely write poetry if you don't have either the metaphor or simile in your back pocket.

It hasn't taken the bashing of a poor pun, mind you, or even a good pun, but there are philologists that swarm like locusts over anything that isn't literal.

However, since the 1970s, cognitive scientists have become increasingly convinced that the metaphor is not only central to thought but also the equal of literal language.

In 1924, German author Thomas Mann, in his novel “The Magic Mountain” used tuberculosis as an extended metaphor for the illness and decay of European civilization prior to the rise of fascism in Italy and Nazi Germany.

So what is the metaphor for our times?

With the economy leaving something to be desired, do we filch, like a thief in the daytime, from the master and use weather as a measure?

Is this the winter of our discontent?

No, we must be content with something more original.

Is it time to grab the bull by the tail and contemplate a mixed metaphor for these mixed up times?

J. Peterman


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