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Metaphor ~ A Writer's Best Buddy

How can you recognise a metaphor in your daily reading – even better… how can you use a metaphor correctly in your writing? Have you ever tried?

You encounter this figure of speech commonly in your life, whether you are aware of it or not. Here you have four metaphors for life – you can probably think of many more!

Technically, in a metaphor we have an implied comparison made between two unlike things that actually have something in common. This popular figure of speech is used to express something unfamiliar (called the tenor or the topic) in terms of the familiar (the vehicle).

In the above example, since we call ‘life’ a “game” then the term ‘life’ is the tenor and “game” is the vehicle, because it brings the abstract concept of ‘life’ nearer to your brain, making it easier to visualize.

When Neil Young sings “Love is a rose”, then “rose” is the vehicle for “love”, the tenor. 

                              A Rose
               Love is a rose but you better not pick it.
               It only grows when it's on the vine.
               A handful of thorns and you'll know you've missed it.
               You lose your love when you say the word "mine."
                              (Neil Young, "Love Is a Rose," 1977)

And to stay with the abstract concept of ‘love’ let us look at a few more expressive examples:

                              A Bull
               Happiness is the china shop; love is the bull.
                              (H.L. Mencken, A Little Book in C Major, 1916)

                              A Canvas
               Love is a canvas furnished by nature and embroidered by imagination.  (Voltaire)
Now, this is a good starting point for you to practise with this kind of comparisons. However, don’t be fooled by its simplicity. There are quite a number of different kinds of metaphors, but we shan’t be going into technical details right now. Suffice for you to be aware of the existence of the absolute metaphor, the complex, the conventional, the conceptual metaphors, the creative and the dead metaphor, the extended metaphor, the mixed, the primary, the root metaphor, the submerged metaphor, the therapeutic and the visual metaphor – all in all a staggering 13 varieties!

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