Re: virus: Eye of the Needle

Brett Lane Robertson (
Sun, 14 Sep 1997 19:06:53 -0500

E: I do consider
metaphor to be central to thought, and to be our primary way of
understanding things like language that cannot be directly sensed as, say,
a rock can. (below)


I say a metaphor is more concrete. Eva says metaphors are more abstract
(can not be directly sensed). My reasoning is that there was a more
"material" nature to ancient life (less leasure to "wool-gather"--more
sewing and less weaving). Therefore, they didn't "embelish" so much as
"piece things togeather". So--thanks, Eva, for the definitions--I still
conclude that sewing is a metaphor in the sense of a concrete cause for
language (though weaving metaphors...may have evolved in more stable
societies--evolved *from* sewing).

If a fish and a whale have come to look alike they have more similarities
than differences even though many "interwoven" environmental factors may
have shaped those final outcomes (yes I understand that "so" and "sew" have
gone through different processes, but the cause of a word which is mixed
and matched by this culture and that language and which can *still* come out
[within the context of any one set*] such that similarities refer to this
original cause is a strong indication that "knotting things, or"not"ing
things, is an activity of leasure which "ties up" progress but cannot keep
it from "materializing".

*I say "within the context of one set" because different sets may be on
different time tables. For example, societies show a maturing process.
While one might get the wrong impression from comparing a mature society to
an infant society, *within one "set" (or society)* like characteristics,
having similar maturities, would show more similarities than between
sets--words which were of similar maturity (within the american culture)
would manifest any inherent similarities better than forms and variations of
similar words between cultures of differing maturity or within one culture
in a comparitive (longitudinal) fashion.

My background is none of your concern, thank you.


At 03:18 PM 9/14/97 -0700, you wrote:
>On Sun, 14 Sep 1997, Brett Lane Robertson wrote:

>> E>"Sewing" metaphors for communication or thought are a subcategory of
>> >"manufacturing/creating" metaphors for communication or thought, which are
>> >in fact common at least in Western thought (and covered in my notes on the
>> >Lakoff lecture).

>> B: The problem here may be our definition of metaphor--while some see
>> metaphor as a more vague term for something, I see it as a more specific
>> term. Words which are used often and in different contexts seem to loose
>> their specificity ("Good day" for example has come to mean hello, how are
>> you doing, nice to see you, it's time for me to be leaving, good bye, etc).
>> The "metaphorical" significance of "good day"--from a modern perspective--is
>> it's usage to mean "good" (not bad) "day" (not night). Because of this
>> distinction, I see "sewing metaphors" to be a more concrete form of the term
>> than the things which they have come to mean. When you say that we have
>> metaphors for communication and thought, you seem to be implying that
>> communication and thought are primary and "metaphor" is "just another way of
>> looking at things".

>Actually, if you go to the archives and look up my notes on George
>Lakoff's lecture (or I can forward them to you if you prefer), you'll get
>a much more accurate picture of my views on metaphor. I do consider
>metaphor to be central to thought, and to be our primary way of
>understanding things like language that cannot be directly sensed as, say,
>a rock can.

>I agree with you on the importance of metaphors, and in particular
>manufacturing metaphors, for how we think about communication; I disagree
>with the examples you find telling.

>> >And as for "so" and "sew", there is no etymological relationship--the fact
>> >that they are homophonic is an accident of history.

>> B: Sorry, I do not believe in historical "accidents". If something is
>> related there is a reason for that relationship.

>Uh, yes...there's a reason, but it has nothing to do with the meaning of
>the words. It has to do with the history of sound shifts in Old and
>Middle English as they developed into the modern language.
> Let me ask you something: When you find a similarity between two
>items in one respect, do you always assume they must be associated in
>other respects?
> Fish and whales have similar body structures and both live
>underwater. This does not establish that they are fundamentally the same,
>nor that one developed from the other, nor that they are any more closely
>associated in essence or history than any other two animals. It
>establishes only that they are similar in this one respect of their manner
>of adaptation to a watery environment.
> Do you understand what I am saying by this example?

>The words "so" and "sew" don't sound alike in most languages; if you spoke
>a different native language, you would find that the word for "so" didn't
>sound much like any other word, or that it sounded like several with
>different meanings, or that it sounded like a word with a meaning
>totally unrelated to sewing. If in your language, "so" sounded like the
>word for "horse", would you conclude that horses were the central metaphor
>for understanding causality?

>> B: Perhaps you are an entomologist? Like there are grammars and words
>> which make up language, there are sounds and symbols which make up words.
>> Entomology is the study of symbols (words)? What is the study of sounds
>> (grammars)? I think that both studies are valid...but I think that
>> grammarians will discover more universally significant relationships than
>> entomologists (the history of sounds are MUCH more ancient--I am assuming).

>Actually, entomology is the study of bugs.

>Etymology is the study of word origins. Phonology is the study of sounds.
>Phonemics is the study of sounds as they are used in languages (letters,
>sounds that are considered distinct from one another in a given language).
>Syntactics is the study of grammar. Semantics is the study of meaning.
>All are aspects of linguistics.

>> >Eva,
>> >who now has something she can say when people ask what she's doing with
>> >her linguistics degree

>> B: I'm starting to notice your signature attachments and am finding much
>> food for thought!

>Food metaphors for thought and communication are also very common. See
>Lakoff again. :)

>amateur entomologist

>PS--If you don't mind my asking, Brett, what is your educational
>background? Have you attended classes in anthropology, linguistics, or
>psychology? I expect you would find all of the above interesting and
>informative, and find that more detailed knowledge of the processes of
>linguistic, cultural, and psychological development would help you in
>developing and evaluating your hypotheses about metaphor.

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