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How To Invent a Metaphor

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?
BECAUSE …

* 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”)

Facebotch, bait-click

2. mash them

Wikipedia, prossibly

* 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.

Example: paper-brick

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.

 

CLICHÉ                                   TROUVÉ

 

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. –

Substitute

Combine

Adapt

Modify

Put to another use

Eliminate

Reverse

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

http://www.ted.com

The Great Courses Plus lectures and courses

“This is Your Brain on Metaphor;” Effective Communication
Skills

2. Creative Thinker’s Toolkit; Argumentation

3. Building Great Sentences

http://www.thegreatcoursesplus.com

 

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”

http://www.designorate.com

 

“How to Improve a Cliché”

https://jerz.setonhill.edu/writing/creative1/

poetry-writing-tips-how-to-write-a-poem/

 

“Zaltman metaphor elicitation technique”

www wikipedia.org

 

“Creativity Tools” on MindTools

http://www.mindtools.com/pages/main/newMN_CT.htm

BOOKS

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)

ORGANIZATIONS

The Private Eye: … Thinking by Analogy
http://www.the-private-eye.com/index.html

The Association for Researching and Applying Metaphor
http://www.raam.org.uk

Poetry Foundation
poetryfoundation.org

Poets.Org (Academy of American Poets)
poets.org

DICTIONARIES and GLOSSARIES

WordSpy (online catalogue of brand new words)
http://www.wordspy.com

poetry glossary from Library, University of Toronto
rpo.library.utoronto.ca

The Poetry Dictionary, 2nd edition, by John Drury

 

 

 

 

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