There are some things that I don’t agree on in this article but I find it very insightful none the less.
I don't see many of Lakoff's examples. In some cases it's not about war metaphors. For example, "It's ok to retreat from your argument" the same way that it's ok to retreat from a gulf or the edge of a cliff. Retreating is not not something people only do when they are in battle faced with a stronger enemy. The concepts are just similar and therefore carry similar verbs that might be more often used in war since it's very salient, but they don't belong to war exclusively. Both arguing and war have similarities and share some common abstract verbs.
Argument is War
Arguments structured as dance! What a world that would be. come to think of it, sometimes my brother and my mom seem to argue in this way. they do the collaborative "yes and" technique like most softies i know do (i try to also as I am a total softie myself), which is till arguing i suppose but more like a secret or slow-motion war. Everything takes 100 times longer but it's ok because democracy is slow, right? all the opinions must be considered and given due attention until a compromise is made. it's fascism that's fast and decisive. but maybe this isn't the right metaphor...
Out of curiosity i found a translation of Lakoff that has all of the metaphors translated and they are a bit of a stretch. For example, the person who translated “I demolished his argument” did translate it literally but it sounds like a less common way of saying it. When i translate this, i’d say “I won the argument”, which is much less violent and in russian that word for “won” is associated with winning a game of sport. It’s not the type of “win” as in “win a war”. There are otehr examples too. Russia is a warring nation just like England and the US but I guess in the conversation of arguing we see it more like a competitive but friendly sport rather than a war or a dance.
We do use war metaphors in other concepts however. It is very heavily used in political news reporting. Often we find words like “X is under fire for…” or “put up a barricade”.
I asked Tiri about how it is in Thai and she replied. Looks like they do use quite a lot of war . I emailed her and also Shir David to ask about Hebrew.
"Your claims are indefensible" - We say it more like "your claims are sound inappropriate"
ter - theang - fang - mai - kuen
"He attacked every weak point in my argument" - This one is pretty much the same
เขา โจมตี ทุกจุดอ่อนของการโต้แย้ง
Kao- "Joam - Tee" tuk- jood - on - kong - karn - toh - yang
"his criticisms were right on target" - This one is pretty much the same
kwam - hen - kong - kow - "trong- pao- mai"
"I've never won an argument with him" - This one is pretty much the same
ฉันไม่มีวันเถียง ชนะ เขา
chan - mai - mee - wan - theang - "cha-na" - kao
"He shot down all my arguments" - This one is pretty much the same
kao - ying(Shot) - kor - toh - yang - chan - ruang(down)
We are going to win! so smash the pot! - this is a very classic war metaphor. The phrase "smash the pot" came from the real history of Thai war. The leader told the troops to destroy all the equipment for cooking. So the only way to eat on the next day only wins the war so you can take the new kitchenware from the new city they won
tub - mhor - kao
You are lying like the shepherd boy - From this story
ter - ko - hok - muean - dek - leang - kae
you panic as rabbit
Kra - tai - tuen - toom
How amazing is the “smash the pot” idiom? So specific. We will surely win this war so we might as well motivate ourselves to do so by smashing out pots so that we have no choice but to pillage tomorrow in order to eat. Wow!
I asked Shir David, a friend and ITP alum, about ARGUMENT IS WAR and she said that it’s pretty common.
“I destroyed him”
“ I bombed him with punches”
Time is Money
I also don’t fully agree with this example. As I keep reading I am starting to doubt the one-directionality of these metaphor influences. For example,
"How much time do you have left"
"Thank you for your time"
These do not make me think of money. In our mind things that are finite have value and so both time and money exhibit this characteristic. I think one can just as easily say that the concept of time - the metaphor of time - is used when we talk about money. Lakoff says "there are cultures where time is none of those things" but i don't really think that the metaphor TIME IS MONEY is all that present here either. Time and money have similar characteristics so they are treated similarly but it's not that one is a metaphor for the other. But I can see how they are sometimes interchanged since there is a relationship between time and money in our culture.
I think when you say “it cost me time” then you are actually using the metaphor. The word “cost” is literal. But “thank you for your time” is not a metaphor for money.
I can see how he might suggest that the more literal action (war, money) are more salient and have more expressions and therefore tend to influence how we speak about more abstract concepts that don't have as many visual and tangible components (time, arguing). And as I said before, I still think that many of the words that happen to be used in war and monetary transactions don't really belong to war or money. “left” (as in “time left”) and “retreat” are neutral . “he was under fire” or “you don’t agree? Shoot!” and “budget your time” are literal and therefore clearly metaphors. But, I suppose he is right in that even the neutral terms like” left” and “retreat” are more primed in our minds with the more salient or tangible associations. If someone was to do an associations test, i suppose upon hearing "retreat" more people would think "retreating in battle” than “retreating from unexpected cliff overhang”.
I do think that when people are careful they try to say things like "i stepped away from that positioning". It's because they are aware that many of the terms that serve the concept of arguing have been used and overused in the concept of war. I think it's a chicken or an egg argument though, and it doesn't actually matter for Lakoff's main argument. His main argument I do agree with.
In fact, he sort of catches himself later and concedes that we don’t quite know which metaphors came first, etc. and that there is a common metaphor among them. for example, in his conclusion he talk about Happy is Up, Rational is Up, Finish Up and how the word up is actually a common word but gives rise to very different metaphors. He writes
verticality enters our experience in many different ways and so gives rise to many different metaphors.
Highlighting and Hiding
Despite not agreeing with most of his examples, I do see Lakoff's point about the way that metaphor, if relied on too much, can shape how we see our activities and erase the unique qualities of the given activity that set it apart from the analogous one that is more salient that we are using as a metaphor. I do see how someone who is very combative (here i am not careful in avoiding this war metaphor, which is a real war metaphor in this case!) may actually talk about their arguments in war metaphors (battle, shoot, under fire) and because of that this individual may miss opportunities for diplomatic and cooperative discussions. I can definitely agree with Lakoff, that if someone says "step away from this discussion" instead of "retreat from this discussion" they are probably seeing things more clearly and giving the discussion a fair chance at being cooperative. But this isn't because "retreat" belongs to war originally, it's only because we've overused it in war rhetoric. I suppose that's what he's saying too but without the distinction that I am making. We both come to the same conclusion, so it doesn’t matter.
Here i am completely on board with Lakoff. It does seem like there are some common spatial metaphors metaphors but that they can’t be removed from experiential basis and that we simply don’t know enough yet. Why “finish up” and then “up in the air”, he says. These are two very different up metaphors.
“Rising above one's emotions”
This is really insightful. I value his observation that we often use the spatial metaphor of happiness and success to downplay the importance of emotions in society. It sound like he is saying we abuse the metaphors by relying on them too much when it would benefit us to be more neutral to keep our minds open. For example, if society didn’t encourage the stifling of emotions would we have less emotionally stunted frat boy types? I have no idea. But also sometimes emotions can trick you, right? I can see how society would also want to protect itself from relying too much on emotion.
I have written more than Lakoff but said so much less. I will try to be more precise, concise, and less repetitive in my future blogs. Maybe i'll get time to edit this and streamline my thoughts a bit. streamline! Another metaphor that comes from literal things.
Streamline: The path of a particle in a fluid relative to a solid body past which the fluid is moving in smooth flow without turbulence.