metaphors & barflies; a light is turned on…

Now that the book, Wood, Talc and Mr. J, is up and running – well, it’s crawling, actually, but we’ll not quibble – I won’t talk too much about it anymore – why do I hear cheers? Reason being is that I feel it’s time to move on.

However, as a little treat, for those of you who haven’t read all of my blog posts, the good news is that I’ve put together 22 of my favourites, which I hope to have published in the next couple of weeks. Even better news is that it’ll be cheap – I wanted to make it free but Amazon wouldn’t let me – relating aspects of the book to present day matters, dating from my starting out up until the last post, the one just prior to this.

22 daydreams, for you, in book form. Keep a lookout.

I guess the most important part, about me moving on, is that I’ve also begun my second novel, Nancy boy; a sequel, which is set in the 1990s. From here onward, then – or maybe as from the next post – I’ll relate my musings, by way of the usual anecdotes and co, to that particular book.

I imagine you’re just as excited as me… cough, cough… (’frog in the throat).

As for this post, I’ll relate it to neither the one book nor the other. But I’d still like you to have a little think, about the way you speak. And indeed think.

Here’s a little story.

When I was a very young lad, I remember one day being at my old Nan’s house – we called her house a ‘maisonette’ in those days, which was on the first floor of a block of two-storey flats. For some reason my grandmother wasn’t there, only my dad, his brother – being my old uncle George – and me. They were looking for something – no idea what, I can’t remember. All I recall is my uncle George, unable to find what they were after, ultimately sighing: “Well, Billy, it looks like we’re snookered.”

And that was it. It was maybe right there: my uncle George fired the trigger, and I was completely hooked; on language, in all its wondrous forms… I saw the green baize of a snooker table, in some imaginary Working Men’s Club; they were a team, their opponents had done one on them.

“Done one on them”, now there’s a metaphor about which I don’t want to go into detail.

Many years on from that, once I’d finally got round to acquiring an academic education – the street one was well and truly conquered by then – a particular ex-sister-in-law, who very much resented my endeavours – apparently, it was somehow going to “change” me; but of course, that said more about her than me – argued that we, as human beings, can quite easily go through life metaphor-usage-free… except her argument collapsed in her subsequent sentence; something about me getting on my “high horse”, and “flowery language” – can’t you just see those images!

She fell out with me after that – that’s a phrasal verb, by the way; do you see it? ‘Fall out with’. What happens there? We’re perhaps in a plane? And she falls out of it, and because she now hates me, she pulls me with her? Is that it? I’ve really no idea why we say that…

But it was only in recent years that I discovered a book, written in 1980, by Lakoff & Johnson, entitled Metaphors We Live By; one of them is a linguist, the other a philosopher, I think.  It became my bible for a while, or least the bits I understood…

At the same time I couldn’t believe it had taken academia so long to come up with it… Now, had they come to me, my dad and my uncle in 1960-something, the moment of my epiphany, no sooner would they have had to explain what a metaphor was than I would have explained to them that, yes, we live by and through metaphor. Our world is constructed thus; we cannot get from a to b without it – “from a to be”, geddit? That’s a metaphor.

Quick example: ‘argument is war’. How? Well, we say things like: ‘Don’t let him shoot you down, stand up to him or he’ll murder you!’ And: ‘Boy, were they at it, guns raging!’ ‘They sat round the table and hammered it out.’

Before I tell you what prompted this essay – oops, blog post, sorry; I’m getting on no high horse, I promise – I’d just like to say that the translation of Albert Camus’ L’Etranger – by Stuart Gilbert in about 46, as ‘The Outsider’ – failed, in my eyes, because the translator didn’t do the essential: he didn’t, like Camus, bereave his 1st-person narrator of the use of conceptual metaphor, and so never allowed his character an alien-like presence, by how he expresses himself.

What I mean about conceptual metaphor is that, anything abstract, we create a more concrete image to define it, simple as that.

One area I’d like to briefly talk about, a wonderful example and pre-Lakoff & Johnson’s seminal piece, is this thing I’m tapping on right now. My pc.

It’s all kind of abstract really, isn’t it? Apart from the outer bit, which we call hardware… but those funny, indefinable bits, well, we call software! Software? Spongy things?

We boot them up – I’ve literally booted mine on many an occasion, beaten it up, but it used to be simpler when we had towers to go at.

One time was when it’d caught a bad virus – many a computer died that year, as I recall. In fact, in retrospect, maybe I was a bit harsh. Some tech-doc brought mine back to life, right meds, all for free…

In truth, it might well have been the one or two dodgy sites I’d visited – it was still all new to me back then; don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. I say visited, but I never moved my backside. Although I’m talking more about what I downloaded; heavy stuff the weight of which I can’t necessarily recall, but it obviously knackered my pc. And the thing was, because it’d caught a virus, I couldn’t even put the rubbish in the bin, traces of places I’d been… I just hoped the doc would understand.

I should have purchased myself a firewall, but that would have meant redecorating the flat… or I thought it would at the time. And can you imagine a postman, today, trying to deliver hot mail? Used to only have to worry about dogs…

Good thing I now surf in much safer places, when I’m online, if it’s all still a balancing act. I’d only ever water-skied up until personal computers.

What I tend to do when typing out these posts is firstly do it in Word; I’m then able to copy it at the flick of a finger and paste it onto my site, another page I can’t actually touch. And it’s all sticky-fingers-free.

Nor can I touch its tools and appliances. And yet I can rent any page and call it ‘home’. Except that, as cosy as that sounds, the other side to the coin – what coin? Who’s coin? – is that the whole thing can just crash. All this time you thought you were going nowhere, well, you were moooovin’. What you crash into is…  I haven’t a clue.  But it’s enough to destroy everything you were carrying, regardless.

I think I may have to leave it there, for suddenly feeling nauseous. I’ve made my point anyhow, about the solids and the abstracts; and how, in order to understand the world, we need to render the latter solid too. Interesting, innit.

I’m now going to lie down a minute or two. And maybe re-think my strategy regarding how much time I play on this potential death-trap.

Catch you next time – if you get my drift, the one floating about these strange waters, not that I’m up to catching anything too heavy – when, hopefully, you’ll call by again… without ever leaving your seat.

Chris

Chris Rose

Your literary, soulful, friend

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