Tuesday, June 08, 2010

I Got Crapped On by Another Bird Today

Which makes six hundred and twenty-four days between crappings-on. See how much personal insight you can gain when you keep a blog? I think I can beat that record next time around.

It was my fault, really, for sitting underneath a tree. But it was a nice evening, and I thought I'd go to the park with a travel coffee-mug of beer to read George Lakoff and Mark Johnson's Metaphors We Live By. Watch out! It sounds like a great idea, but there are a couple of dangers, like that you might get crapped on by a bird, or that Lakoff and Johnson don't have a very convincing account of why we "live by" metaphors, as opposed to the underlying concepts that permit metaphors.* (You know why GOOD IS UP, by the way, is that when you're up, nothing can crap on you there.) But mostly I'm happy the bird just nailed my jacket sleeve and not the mouth of my travel coffee-mug of beer.

OK, that's quite enough of this.

*I'm only on chapter 5, so I retain some open-mindedness, but: Why say that the metaphor ARGUMENT IS WAR implies that we fundamentally understand argument as a metaphor for war? Isn't it more fundamental that we understand ARGUMENT IS A ZERO-SUM CONTEST FOR SCARCE RESOURCES and WAR IS A ZERO-SUM CONTEST FOR SCARCE RESOURCES? (Scarce resources being beliefs or group decisions in the first case, spoils in the second.) I think this reveals the metaphor as much more of a linguistic phenomenon (as opposed to a conceptual one) than Lakoff and Johnson want to describe it. Looking at it this way, the metaphor is almost straight-up exaggeration, for rhetorical effect -- making the more subtle case (argument) into the more extreme one (war). L&J quickly identify that there are underlying concepts that make these metaphors work, and that they're important. But it's frustrating that they don't do a very rigorous job of investigating what's causing what among their linguistic and conceptual observations.

I'm, uh, kind of assuming either Nate or Pete has read this book, and can reply with a similar level of incoherence-or-not. Otherwise this is going to be a somewhat lonely read.


Blogger Pete said...

I'll reply with some metaphor-thoughts soon enough, but first I'd just like to say that it was awesome to open the blog this morning and see that you got crapped on by another bird. This might be the most (mildly) useful thing the blog has ever done!

6/09/2010 9:17 AM  
Blogger nate said...

I got just barely crapped on by a bird when I was hanging out on Mom & Dad's deck at home over the pre-Memorial Day week -- but just the tiniest amount of crap, so I don't really think it counts. So I'd say you're the clear frontrunner in the family for that.

I haven't read Lakoff/Johnson, though, so the above paragraph's about as erudite as I can be in response to this post. I do think there's a fuzzier line between linguistic and conceptual phenomena than you let on but I don't really have any backup for that opinion.

6/12/2010 1:06 PM  

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