A metaphor is an image made up of words, which represents a less tangible idea, making that idea more vivid and easier to understand. Our language is full of metaphors, which are usually drawn from familiar aspects of life. Sometimes the familiar context becomes obsolete but the metaphor remains in the language. There are hundreds, probably thousands, of these in English. “That’s not my cup of tea”, “Fighting a rear guard action”, “Getting on your high horse”, “There’s nothing up my sleeve”, “I’ll beat you hands down” – these are just a few metaphors which decorate our everyday speech.
If metaphors use familiar images, then it can be assumed that we can learn a lot about another culture, present and past, through the metaphors that exist in its language. For example, in Spanish bull-fighting provides a wealth of metaphors which are used in everyday language. Here are just two – but there are many more:
“tener mano izquierda” means to be subtle and astute, to work behind the scenes, and comes from the subtleties of the bullfighters moves. “Salir al quite” means to distract attention, and refers to the way bulls are distracted by other fighters who run out to the rescue of the main bullfighter when he is in trouble.
I read “salir al quite” this morning in a newspaper article about a politician helping another one in a debate, which is what started off this train of thought. As a result I’ve decided to create a “metaphor” section to my blog. I hope you’ll find it interesting!