March 29, 2012

People live by key metaphors…

Posted in Literature Elements tagged , , , , , , at 6:34 pm by

“In all aspects of life, we define our reality in terms of metaphors and then proceed to act            on the basis of the metaphors. We draw inferences, set goals, make commitments, and      execute plans, all on the basis of how we in part structure our experience, consciously and unconsciously, by means of metaphor”  ~ George Lakoff and Mark Johnson

People live by key metaphors called figures of speech, which means an object or idea is applied to another word or phrase suggesting a similarity between them.[1] Time is money, More is better and Life is a battlefield; are all metaphors that people live by. According to Koiranen (1995), it is our daily language that moves our thoughts but, it’s the metaphors that express relationships such a, A is B, or A is like B. (para Tsoukas, 1993; Easton and Araujo, 1991).[2]  Metaphors are tropes, tools which construct our realities by making our thoughts more intense and even interesting while structuring our own personal perceptions and understanding. Our actions are metaphorical in nature as a means of shaping our conceptual system as seen in everyday activities such as, arguing, solving dilemmas while incorporating what we think, feel and experience (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980, para. 104). Metaphors are created to offer a frame of reference to new concepts while grabbing the attention of the audience to see the old or familiar in a new perspective. This in turn, reveals a different way of thinking.

The use of metaphors is developed from people’s concerns in life. If one were to alter these key metaphors the outcome would be significant as it would change the individual’s views which governed their lives. In our lecture Lakoff & Johnson (1980) discussed the connection of changing a metaphor and its outcome, “…is to point out the importance of realizing that by changing metaphors, one may change in subtle and striking ways the ways people orient toward the phenomena they metaphorize.[3]

An example of this would be the metaphors, “Life is a symphony” compared to “Life is the pits”. An individual who uses one or the other will have completely different outlooks on life itself. For instance, the first gives the imagery of music, energy and rhythm with its crescendos and a positive attitude whereas, the second is a more pessimistic view and negative suggesting no hope. When these metaphors are changed: “Is life the pits” it now revealed to have a more profound effect and philosophical questioning. “A symphony is life” symbolizes the joy of the music that is brought to others. By changing their key metaphors an individual’s perspective can change too by structuring their own personal perceptions and understandings.


Koiranen, M. (1995). Frontiers of Entrepreneurship Research 1995 Edition. Retrieved February 22, 2011, from

Lakoff, G. & Johnson, M. (1980). Metaphors We Live By. Retrieved February 22, 2011   ’Brien_I_Proof_5.pdf

[1]How to study. Retrieved February 23, 2011, from

[2] Frontiers of Entrepreneurship Research 1995 Edition:  Retrieved February 21, 2011 from,

[3]Mini Lecture: Retrieved February 22, 2011, from



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