Subconscious Metaphors in the English Language

At most colleges, and luckily at Geneseo, a variety of classes are offered, spanning many disciplinaries and topics that any student can take. However, most of the times if the classes don’t fall under the same discipline we separate them and don’t think of them as being related to one another in any way.  On the first day of class, Dr. MCcoy posed the question, “why should people who care about rocks care about social justice?” I still don’t think I have a good answer to this question, however, I have begun to think more about this question and really try and see the bigger picture.

This semester I am also taking an anthropology class entitled Language and Culture.  In one lecture we discussed the theories presented by George Lakoff in his book, “Metaphors We Live By.”  This book presents Lakoff’s study on the English language and how the documented patterns in language reveal metaphorical nature of culture, “Since communication is based on the same conceptual system that we use in thinking and acting, language is an important source of evidence for what that system is like.”  When Professor Guzman presented this theory I was rather skeptical. How is it that a great deal of our speech was based on metaphor and we don’t even realize it? However, when the evidence was shown supporting the theory it was rather hard to ignore and it was a rather large eye-opener. When you look at the language you can see how we value things based on the metaphor we associate things with; love we see as a journey and time is considered a form of currency.

Another author presented to us was Otto Santa Ana and he took this theory and wrote a book entitled Brown Tide Rising: Metaphors of Latinos in Contemporary American Public Discourse focused on how it applies to immigrants.  Immigrants are compared to destructive natural forces.  Often times they are described as waves like a tsunami or we often see in the news immigrants coming to America as a sea.  The negative connotations that are associated with immigrants and to be honest anyone who isn’t of western European descent are ingrained in our society to the point that we don’t even realize it.  We don’t realize it but it is a very real part of the American lexicon speech and society for hundreds of years applying to a variety of races from African American, Chinese, Irish, Middle Eastern, and even more.  Its kind of crazy how these things are casually part of the English language.

It’s cool that at the same time that I learned about subconscious metaphors in the English language connecting immigrants and natural disasters we’re reading The Fifth Season were orogenes, who are seen as less than human and more like wild forces that need to be controlled and used, is connected to earthquakes.  It makes me wonder if maybe N.K. Jemison was aware of this subconscious metaphor and it was a contributing factor when she wrote the book.

Connections are often hard to make until someone points them out to you or you have to look for them but once you start doing it it’s almost impossible to unsee.

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