With the change back to normal time from daylights savings time today, I thought it might be “time” to look back at a few metaphors about the changing of seasons and the amount of sunlight we enjoy in the summer and miss in the fall and winter. I was also remiss in not noting metaphors of the word eclipse as we experienced the amazing solar eclipse this past summer. Here are a few metaphors of seasons, sunlight, moonlight and eclipses.
Most temperate climates have four seasons: spring, summer, fall and winter. Each of these seasons has its own set of metaphorical qualities. Spring is associated with life and new growth; summer is related to nice weather and easy living; fall or autumn is associated with life becoming more difficult or the end of one’s life; winter is connected to death and decay. Someone who is described as being seasoned is someone who has lived for many years and has gained a great deal of knowledge in his or her lifetime.
Example: In the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump was fairly new to politics, but Hillary Clinton was a seasoned political veteran.
Example: In 2011, many countries in North Africa and the Middle East experienced revolutions. These changes in government are known as the Arab Spring.
Example: During the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union, a nuclear war would have killed everyone at the site of the war. This would have created a nuclear winter.
Example: President Ronald Reagan spent his autumn years on his ranch in California before passing away in 2004.
Example: In many countries, elections only take a few weeks or months. In the United States, the election season for presidential elections lasts almost two years.
The concept of the light provided by the sun is involved in many English metaphors. Literally, a day is sunny if the sun is shining brightly. Metaphorically, a person or a situation can be sunny if the person is happy or the situation seems to be going well.
Example: After the 2008 financial crisis, most Americans hoped for sunny predictions for a quick economic recovery but the recession lasted for years after that.
The ideas of sunlight or sunshine can be used metaphorically to indicate that a situation is good or that a dark situation is made more clear. It is well known that bright sunlight can kill germs or disinfect a surface that might have germs. Thus we have an unusual phrase that sunlight is the best disinfectant which carries a metaphorical meaning that uncovering and discussing a problem is the best way to solve it.
Example: When it came to the Watergate scandal of the early 1970s, sunlight was the best disinfectant on President Nixon’s questionable practices at the Watergate Hotel.
The word shine as an intransitive verb indicates the action of an object that gives off light such as the sun, moon or stars. However, people can also shine metaphorically if they do something to the best of their abilities.
Example: Although not many people knew Sarah Palin before 2007, John McCain choosing her as his running mate allowed her to shine on a national stage.
dawn of a new day
Dawn is the time that the sun first rises in the morning and shines light on a person’s part of the world. The phrase dawn of a new day indicates that a new time period is beginning usually with a positive connotation.
Example: When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, many Americans thought it was the dawn of a new day for progressive reforms in government. However, the lack of progress in Congress in his first term left the country with many of the same problems as the previous decades.
Metaphorically, the phrase to dawn on means to realize something as if it is the first time that an idea comes into a person’s head.
Example: For most Americans, the idea that the United States could be attacked by terrorists seemed impossible until September 11, 2001 when it dawned on them that it was indeed possible.
on the horizon
The horizon is the line between the sky and the land from the perspective of wherever one is looking at a distance. Metaphorically, a horizon indicates anything that is possible in the future.
Example: During the start of an economic downturn, most Americans realize that are probably going to be many budget cuts and job losses on the horizon.
A rainbow is a pattern of all colors of light in an arc across the sky after a rainstorm. The concept of many colors together is used metaphorically to indicate many different races of people working together. A coalition is a group of people who work together for a common cause. Many countries have such groups called rainbow coalitions.
Example: The Reverend Jesse Jackson’s social activism group of many races working together is called the Rainbow Coalition.
In contrast to the positive connotations of sunlight, darkness has many negative connotations such as evil, illegal activity or unethical behavior.
Example: During the Great Depression of the 1930s, there were many dark days for Americans who could not find work or afford to feed their families.
When sunlight hits an object, a dark shadow is cast behind it. Metaphorically, a shadow indicates the dark part of a person or situation, often meaning secretive or illegal activities.
Example: Americans do not like it when their elected officials make deals in the shadows. Government work should be done in the light of day when everyone can see what is going on.
People whose identities or behavior is unknown may be called shadowy figures especially if they are suspected of illegal or unethical behavior.
Example: Osama bin Laden was known for years as a shadowy figure before he began his terrorist attacks on the United States.
The moon is the subject of many stories and myths in every culture around the world. Doing something in the moonlight indicates that it is not completely clear what is happening. However, moonlight is used most often as a verbal metaphor indicating that someone is working at night, usually doing a second or third job in addition to one’s day job.
Example: People who have jobs with low wages often moonlight in other occupations in order to earn enough money to pay their bills.
An eclipse is a rare phenomenon when the earth passes directly between the sun and the moon (a lunar eclipse) or when the moon passes directly between the sun and the earth (a solar eclipse) temporarily blocking out the light of the sun. In metaphorical terms, a person, group or action that becomes more important that the previous one may be called an eclipse.
Example: Voter turnout by minorities in the 2008 presidential election eclipsed all other elections up to that point.
Stay tuned for more metaphors of the fall! Thanks for reading!