HOW TO INVENT YOUR OWN METAPHORS
a handout prepared by Therese L. Broderick, 2018
1. coining new words
2. upgrading clichés
3. fashioning analogies
4. playing with language
WHAT IS A METAPHOR?
For the purposes of this blog page, “metaphor” includes:
comparison, resemblance, likeness, simile, analogy, symbol,
cliché, parable, allegory, metonymy, synecdoche, extended
or dead metaphor, neologism, nickname, kenning, conceit
Whenever you create or interpret a spoken or written metaphor, you are drawing from your unspoken and/or subconscious assumptions, emotional associations, memories, and vocabulary. Your mental operations are never identical to anyone else’s.
WHY LEARN ABOUT METAPHORS?
* Your brain runs on comparisons. A human brain
is constantly comparing the unfamiliar to the familiar,
framing the new thing in terms of the old thing.
* Metaphors help you to tell your own life story in vivid
language that other people will remember.
* Our English words began as metaphors.
* Advertising, political rhetoric, medicine, religious texts, technological jargon, sports commentary, war slogans, the arts –all use metaphors in order to influence and persuade.
* Conflict resolution may be most successful when both parties in conflict are aware of the “ladder of inference,” the escalation of language from neutral (concrete) to loaded (abstract).
* Peace-making between cultures may be most successful when each culture respects the other’s cherished symbols.
* Language play is fun and age-defying!
* Billy Collins, former US Poet Laureate, has stated that metaphor can be taught to anyone who’s deeply interested in connections.
EXERCISE ONE — HOW TO COIN A NEW WORD
* Take two or more existing words and
1. link them side-by-side (“kenning”)
2. mash them
* Take a noun and make it a verb: friend me
* Take a verb and make it a noun: gerrymanderization
* Reverse engineer a multi-part word: toward (untoward)
* Hang around a child who’s learning to talk:
“extinguished gentleman” (Therese’s daughter)
NAME A PLACE
Invent a new name for a physical location – your place of residence, workplace, basement or attic, summer camp, childhood home, favorite room, yoga mat, man cave, etc. Pick a salient trait or quality of that place, then combine it with any of the following:
-burgh, -ville, -mont, -shire, – wich, -opolis, -ford, -dam,
-scape, -hood, -dale, -town, -tan, -ton, -tin
Manor, Hollow, Fields, Land, Glade, Greens, Hamlet, Woods,
Town, Village, Mount, Glen, Mills, Circle, Square, Park
example: Bicsville = name of house occupied by two writers
NAME AN OBJECT [object and sketch provided in class]
Create a metaphorical name for this object. Free-write from the sketch. Juxtapose two nouns. Be sure to mine your own particular vocabulary, skills, knowledge, and experiences.
EXERCISE TWO — HOW TO UPGRADE A CLICHÉ
The moon is like a dime.
The flock of geese is a necklace in the sky.
Draw a Venn diagram, one circle labeled with a cliché, the other circle with an outrageous new claim, a “trouvé”. To find an outrageous new claim, randomly pick a phrase from any random text. Or, randomly pick one of your Daily 5 log entries.
Brainstorm the overlap. What do the Cliché and the Trouvé
have in common, no matter how far-fetched? What sensory traits, origins, purposes, causes, or effects do they share? When have the two intersected during your own life?
NOTE: A Daily 5 log is a notebook or computer file in which you record, every evening, five sensory experiences from earlier in the day. Each entry must begin with these phrases in this sequence:
1. I am tasting …
2. I am smelling …
3. I am touching …
4. I am listening to …
5. I’m looking at …
EXERCISE THREE — HOW TO FASHION AN ANALOGY
A–to-B is like C–to-D
relationship is like relationship
Condense an analogy to get a simile.
“the moon is like a dime”
Condense a simile to get a metaphor.
“the moon is a dime”
YOU-to-“moon” is like YOU-to-“dime”
relationship is like relationship
Imagine that you are the moon. Finish these statements:
I’m composed of … I’m the result of …
Usually, I love to … I’m located …
I’m moving … I feel …
I think that … I’m changing into …
I’m the cause of … I wish that …
I regret … I miss …
Using your results, invent a fresh metaphor for the moon.
If you need more brainstorming, apply S.C.A.M.P.E.R. –
Put to another use
EXERCISE FOUR — PLAYING WITH LANGUAGE
Do a search on Google or Twitter using hashtag “metaphor” — #metaphor
A SAMPLING OF SOURCES FOR THIS HANDOUT
AUDIO and VIDEO
“Just Like That: A Free Metaphor Workshop Highlights”
Dr Darryl Whetter
“Go ahead! Make up new words!”
TEDYouth talk by Erin McKean
The Great Courses Plus lectures and courses
“This is Your Brain on Metaphor;” Effective Communication
2. Creative Thinker’s Toolkit; Argumentation
3. Building Great Sentences
ARTICLES and CHAPTERS
“Fine Tuning Metaphors and Similes”
chapter 11 in The Poetry Home Repair Manual
by Ted Kooser
“A Guide to the SCAMPER Technique for Creative Thinking”
“How to Improve a Cliché”
“Zaltman metaphor elicitation technique”
“Creativity Tools” on MindTools
I Is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How It Shapes the Way We See the World by James Geary
Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson
Robert Frost: Speaking on Campus edited by Edward Lathem
A Primer for Poets & Readers of Poetry (2018) by Gregory Orr (see chapter 11 on metaphor)
The Private Eye: … Thinking by Analogy
The Association for Researching and Applying Metaphor
Poets.Org (Academy of American Poets)
DICTIONARIES and GLOSSARIES
WordSpy (online catalogue of brand new words)
poetry glossary from Library, University of Toronto
The Poetry Dictionary, 2nd edition, by John Drury