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Magical metaphors

Whether it is William Wordsworth asking to ‘fill your paper with the breathings of your heart’ or Bob Dylan admitting, ‘Chaos is a friend of mine’ we are instantly transported to the magic world of metaphors and identify with the ethos therein. The figure of speech or the metaphor is ubiquitous in every language and creates powerful imagery, adding colour to the narration, depth to the description and power to perception. It is said that early human thought progressed through metaphors and hence our concept of how we think and act are metaphorical and pervasive in everyday life.

One of the earliest recorded metaphors is attributed to Homer (Circa 800 BC) when he described sunrise as the child of morning, rosy-fingered dawn. Shakespeare, the master of metaphors declared, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players, They have their exits and their entrances.”

Our relationship with our body parts are embedded in our language through our thought process. We picnic at the ‘mouth’ of the cave near the ‘foot’ of the mountain. We get to the ‘heart’ of the matter, ‘shoulder’ responsibilities and ‘face’ our problems keeping ‘ear’ to the ground and extend helping ‘hand’ when needed. Our senses of touch, taste, smell, hearing and sight are also basis for metaphoric constructs. We are either ‘chilled’ out or ‘boiling’ mad meeting an ‘old flame’. The ‘sweet smell’ of success drowns our ‘bitter-sweet memories’ and brings ‘music to our ears’. You ‘see’ where this is all ‘heading’!

The tech world thrives on metaphors and communication about the Internet is of a metaphorical nature. In fact, they are incorporated in the three states of matter, solid, liquid and gas - “Data Mining,” refers to the act of getting insightful information from data, “Data Streaming” is the delivery of many chunks of data over time and “The Cloud,” is a place where we store data.

Steve Jobs in 2007, introduced the iPhone as a phone with the other features as a neat add-on. In reality the iPhone, along with all the smartphones that have followed, has never really been a phone, except in a metaphorical sense. It has always been a networked computerised sensing device that can make phone calls, too. The ‘watch’ in a smart watch is only a metaphor signifying it as an accessory that’s worn on a strap on the wrist and incidentally tells you the time.

Verbal expressions are made elegant with appropriate metaphors. Russian playwright-cum-doctor Anton Chekhov said, “Medicine is my lawful wife and literature my mistress; when I tire of one, I spend the night with the other.” A mother’s note to a daughter, “The moon danced with the stars on the night you were born;” A teacher’s advice, “Follow your heart but take the brain along;” The best counsel ever, “Self-confidence is the best outfit you can wear.”

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