Tuesday, February 7, 2012


“Up scrambles the car, on all its four legs…” D.H. Lawrence, Mornings in Mexico

“So consumers are not exactly dragging their feet. They are dancing as fast as can be expected.” Business Week

“…there has been a mountain of meaning rising behind you…” Eudora Welty, One Writer’s Beginnings

A metaphor is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable. It is a thing regarded as representative or symbolic of something else, especially something abstract.

Metaphors give our language color. They provide variety. They enable us to describe ordinary items, people and places in extraordinary ways.

In fact, an article published online this week in the journal Brain & Language, and described in another article by Quinn Eastman, says that the parietal operculum, the part of the brain important for sensing texture through touch, is activated when someone listens to a sentence with a textural metaphor. How cool is that? Metaphors actually stimulate your brain and that stimulation can be seen with brain imaging.

So the next time you’re searching for exactly the right word choice, remember the metaphor—it’s good for your brain!


  1. I love using metaphors--but I often over use them. Great article!! Cheers, Jenn

  2. Metaphors the cream in my coffee.

  3. Then writers who use metaphors are mind massagers. I am a brain masseuse!

  4. I approach metaphors with caution. Good ones can be excellent, but 'contrived' or 'too fanciful' ones can distract the reader, as can the use of too many metaphors. There's also a narrow line between some metaphors and the dreaded cliches. On the whole, I prefer to call a spade a spade (if you'll forgive the cliche there!).

  5. Jenn and Paula, yes, I think the trick is to strike just the right balance. I often find song lyrics have great examples and have very creative ways of describing things. But the metaphors have to fit with the story and with the characters.

    Fireman, nice!

    Ana, LOL! I just found that study so interesting.

  6. Ahhhhh metaphors, snuggled up inside my favorite... :-)

    Great post Jennifer!

  7. Thanks, November! I just read an article about "Helicopter Parents"--another great metaphor, although I hope to God I'm never one of those!

  8. Clever post.

    Metaphors are a good way to do that showing not telling in certain cases as well.