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Trump’s Inaugural Address

Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States this past weekend.   He delivered a short 16-minute speech. It was not the normal inaugural address. Most new presidents make efforts to unite the country and outline the goals of their term.   These addresses also normally include some soaring rhetoric rich in metaphors to try to inspire the American public to follow the president’s new agenda. This address was surprisingly negative in tone. I looked back at Donald Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican convention in July of 2016. That speech was much longer and was more positive in tone. This speech was apparently written largely by two of Trumps closest advisors, Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, who are known for their conservative approaches to politics. Most journalists were surprised and confused at how negative the speech was. George Lakoff published a very unflattering summary of the speech and Donald Trump’s politics on his blog at georgelakoff.com.  You can read the transcript of the speech here.

In any case, the speech is very interesting in its rhetorical style and the limited numbers of metaphors that were used. First, allow me to summarize some of the rhetorical strategies used in the speech. The speechwriters included a dystopian background, hyperbolic descriptions and deliberate repetition. As always, the examples below are taken directly from the speech. Some quotes are repeated if they contain more than one examples of a rhetorical style or a metaphor. Italics are mine.

RHETORIC

Hyperbole

Trump provides a very grim description of the United States, and uses words and phrases normally associated with violence, crime and death. He talks about people being trapped like animals, empty factories looking like tombstones, with gangs and drugs stealing lives and robbing people of their potential. Meanwhile, our infrastructure fallen into decay, and the wealth of the middle class is ripped from their homes. He also describes other countries as ravaging our borders, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.

Example: “But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.”

An abandoned factory outside Duluth, Minnesota

Example: “… America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay.”

Example: “The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed across the entire world.”

Example: “We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs.”

Dystopia

Needless to say, these types of hyperbolic descriptions do not paint a picture of a successful society. Rather, these terms describe a dystopian society on the road to ruin. In the middle of these descriptions, Trump summarized the society as “American carnage.” The term carnage is an especially violent connotation. The word is derived from the Latin word for flesh or meat. The word carnage literally means the slaughter of animals, and is most commonly used to describe a scene of many people being killed such as soldiers on a battlefield, or victims of a bombing. George Lakoff provides even more details about this term in his recent blog post. Nonetheless, Trump tries to explain how he can stop the carnage and provide a “glorious destiny” for all Americans.

The carnage after the Battle of Gettysburg

Example: “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now. We are one nation — and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams; and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny.”

Repetition

President Trump uses repetition of words and phrases very effectively to emphasize some of his main points. He claims that Americas have one heart, one home and one destiny. In his line about American carnage, instead of saying “the carnage stops right here and now” he repeats the word stop for effect. In another example, instead of saying he will bring back our jobs, borders, wealth and our dreams, he repeats the phrase bring back. Finally, to finish the speech with a bang, he repeats the phrase “We will make America _________ again” filling in the blank with many different adjectives describing the new country he hopes to create.

Example: “We are one nation — and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams; and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny.”

Example: “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.”

Example: “We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams.”

Example: “Together, We will make America strong again.

We will make America wealthy again.

We will make America proud again.

We will make America safe again.

And yes, together, we will make America great again. Thank you. God bless you. And God bless America.”

METAPHORS

In addition to these rhetorical strategies, President Trump uses a few metaphorical expressions to explain some of his goals for the country.

Personification

As mentioned many times in my blog posts, it is very common for politicians to describe the United States as a person, as if the country is one person, or if all the American citizens collectively are one person. Other countries act as a single person as well. So other countries are described as stealing our companies and destroying our jobs. At the same time, the United States will face challenges and confront hardships. Trump also claims that we share one heart and one home, and we will seek friendships with other countries.   In the end, America will be strong again.

stealing, destroying

Example: “We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.”

face, confront

Example: “Together, we will determine the course of America and the world for years to come.

We will face challenges. We will confront hardships.”

heart, home

Example: “We are one nation — and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams; and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny.”

friendship

Example: “We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world — but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.”

strong

Example: “Together, We will make America strong again.”

Taking

Following the logic of the personification metaphors, if a country steals something from the United States, the obvious question is if we can get it back. In a previous post on Donald Trump’s Streetball Rhetoric, I found that Trump sometimes thinks of politics as a street basketball game. In some cases, the person who brought the basketball to the game goes home and takes the ball with him. In those cases, the remaining players are hoping that the person can bring the ball back so they can continue the game. Similarly, Trump claims he can bring back what was taken from us, such as bringing back our jobs, our borders, our wealth and our dreams.

bring back

Example: “We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams.”

Death

I do not believe I have ever had to explain a metaphor of death. In a strangely dark simile, Donald Trump compares abandoned factories to tombstones.

tombstones

Example: “But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation…”

Building

I have also mentioned many times that politicians use metaphors of building a new America. However, I could only find one example of this type of metaphor in Trump’s speech. In this example, we find a serendipitous pairing of the literal meaning of building with the metaphorical building. Enjoy!

rebuilding

Example: “We will build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways all across our wonderful nation. We will get our people off of welfare and back to work — rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor.”

Vision

Politicians also talk about having a vision for the future when they give important speeches.   I could only find two brief examples of these vision metaphors, looking to the future and having a new vision to govern the country.

looking

Example: “But that is the past. And now we are looking only to the future. We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power.”

vision

Example: “From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land.”

Sailing

Metaphors of sailing boats or ships are very colorful and powerful in a political speech. They have a sense of grandeur, great movement, and global implications. Trump uses two clever examples of sailing metaphors including saying that our factories have left our shores and our confidence has disappeared over the horizon as if they were large ships that recently set sail around the world. Instead, he wants to determine the course of America as if he is starting on a new sailing journey.

our shores

Example: “One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions upon millions of American workers left behind.”

Sunset Evening Cancun

horizon

Example: “We’ve made other countries rich while the wealth, strength, and confidence of our country has disappeared over the horizon.”

 

 

course

Example: “Together, we will determine the course of America and the world for years to come.”

Journey

Finally, another of the most powerful political metaphors are journey metaphors. These metaphors also connote movement, power and progress. Strangely, there were not many examples of these metaphors, only one negative example and one positive example. Trump contends that many American workers have been left behind, as if the country has gone on a journey without them. And yet, he also maintains that America is unstoppable as if it is a powerful train.

left behind

Example: “One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions upon millions of American workers left behind.”

unstoppable

Example: “When America is united, America is totally unstoppable.”

*******

It is difficult to judge the rhetorical and metaphorical power of a speech that only lasted 16 minutes. Clearly, President Trump is going to speak and act completely differently than any previous president. I am looking forward to more detailed speeches from Donald Trump where we can learn more of his policies and vision for the future and, if the United States is truly in a dystopian condition, he can lead us to a brighter future.

 

Flashback: Obama’s 1st Inaugural Address

I have had several requests from linguists and graduate students around the world in the past few months to have more analyses of President Obama’s speeches. Previously, I analyzed his 2nd Inaugural Address from January 2013 among other speeches. Today I would like to an analysis of his 1st Inaugural Address from January 2009.   Although it may seem like ancient history, this important speech reveals the energy and optimism of his record-setting campaign and election. President Obama uses a wide variety of metaphors in his speech including those from nature, farming, personification, theater, machines and tools, buildings, food, fragile objects, physical forces and journeys.

As always, the examples below are taken directly from the transcript of the speech. I have italicized the metaphors in question. Some examples are repeated if they contain multiple metaphors.

 

Nature

We commonly use metaphors of nature to describe political events or historical conditions. In one extended passage, President Obama speaks of rising tides, still waters, gathering clouds and raging storms. In other cases, he also speaks of our national confidence being reduced like the sap of a tree, while political changes are compared to earthquakes or shifting ground and American ideals are seen as lighting the world like the sun.

Example: “Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath.  The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace.  Yet, every so often, the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms.”

blog - nature - still water

blog - nature - rainstorm

 

 

 

 

 

Example: “Less measurable, but no less profound, is a sapping of confidence across our land; a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, that the next generation must lower its sights.”

Example: “What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.”

Example: “Our Founding Fathers — (applause) — our Founding Fathers, faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man — a charter expanded by the blood of generations.  Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience sake.”  (Applause.)

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Farming

Our close relationship to nature includes our thousands of years of farming practices. In one case, terrorists are compared to farmers who sow conflict instead of seeds.

Example: “To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.”

 

Personification

Politicians commonly refer to countries or political movements as people.   Thus, Obama refers to America as a friend of other nations, while earlier generations faced down fascism. Additionally, he speaks of dogmas as having the power to strangle our politics. Most famously, he described terrorists as a group of people to whom he would like to extend and hand if they would unclench their fists.

blog - personification - handshakeExample: “And so, to all the other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born, know that America is a friend of each nation, and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity.”

Example: “Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions.”

Example: “On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.”

blog - personification - Clenched_human_fistExample: “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Theater

In addition to metaphors of personification, we also commonly compare countries to actors playing on stage or in a movie. Thus, President Obama claims that American must play a role in establishing peace around the world and that we must consider our role in keeping our military personnel safe in overseas engagements.

Example: “…and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.”

Example: “As we consider the role that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who at this very hour patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains.”

 

Buildings

It is also common that politicians speak of governmental progress as building a new structure. Thus, we find an example of President Obama describing his goals in 2009 to lay a new foundation for economic growth. He also describes terrorists as those who would not only build societies but also destroy them.

Example: “For everywhere we look, there is work to be done.  The state of our economy calls for action, bold and swift.  And we will act, not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth.”

Example: “To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.”

 

Machines and Tools

We have used animals and machines for hundreds of years to make our lives easier. We put harnesses on domesticated animals to make them do work on our farms. We can also use tools to fix a machine or try not to lose control of its power. Thus Obama speaks of harnessing the sun, wind and earth for fuel. He also speaks of using instruments to meet new challenges, and watching the stock market so that it does not spin out of control.

blog - machines - harness horses
Example: “We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.”

Example: “Our challenges may be new.  The instruments with which we meet them may be new.”

blog - machines - spinning topExample: “But this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control.”

 

Food 

We all have experiences eating food. We may describe the taste of food as something that is salty or sweet, sour or bitter, fresh or stale. Unpleasant events may be compared to a bitter taste, while old political strategies may be compared to stale bread. With a nod to the rhetoric of Martin Luther King, Jr., President Obama claims that we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation while stale political arguments are no longer applicable to modern societies.

blog - food - Stale_breadExample: “We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation…”

Example: “What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.”

 

Fragile Objects

We compare the strength of people, political movements or personal motivation to fragile objects like glass vases. President Obama uses a popular metaphor to describe the American spirit as something that is not fragile and thus cannot be broken.

Example: “And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken — you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.”

 

Physical Forces

We can also control objects and our environment by shaping them as if they are mounds of clay. Thus, Obama says that we are shaped by the languages and cultures of other countries, while we must be responsible to shape our own national destiny.

Example: “We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation…”

Example: “This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.”

 

Journey

Finally, and not surprisingly, President Obama uses many journey metaphors to describe his goals for his presidency which was just beginning in 2009. We use metaphors of walking, driving or sailing ships to describe progress in our lives. President Obama uses quite a variety of these types of metaphors. He does not want to roll back the progress that had been made on reducing global warming, but to carry forward the gifts of our forefathers to create a better world. He claimed that the United States has long been on a difficult path, but without short-cuts, while finding the surest route for a new way forward. He wants to country to think about how far we have traveled together and to keep our eyes on the horizon and carry forth our gifts to a new generation.

Example: “With old friends and former foes, we’ll work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet.”

Example: “The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea passed on from generation to generation:  the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.”

blog - journey - ShortcutExample: “Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less.  It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those that prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.  Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor — who have carried us up the long rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.”

Example: “The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity, on the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.”

Example: “To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.”

Example: “So let us mark this day with remembrance of who we are and how far we have traveled.”

blog - war - horizonExample: “Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.”

*******

It is interesting to see the optimism in Barack Obama’s rhetoric and choice of metaphors at the start of his presidency. I wonder if he believes he has achieved all he had hoped for on his journey…

 

Signature Issues – Synecdoche Part 2

Hello! Sorry for the delay with today’s post. This has been crunch time for my teaching schedule at the end of the quarter. I have been swamped with testing, grades and endless paperwork. I am trying to catch up with my blog posts.

Today I would like to provide the second part of my analysis of synecdoche. The last time I discussed examples from the human body, land, furniture and buildings. This time I explain examples from writing, money, tool, weapons and machines.

Writing

the fine print

In many legal documents, the details of the agreement are very long and complex so they are often printed in small letters. This is usually referred to as the fine print. Thus the small print represents the details of a process or agreement. There is also usually a negative sense to the phrase since people are sometimes fooled by not reading the fine print in a document before they sign it.

Example: Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act was a document of 2700 pages. Members of Congress had to read a lot of fine print before they could vote on it to be passed into law.

blog - business - JohnHancocksignature issues

A signature is a handwritten name. It represents the person’s identity and approval of the document that is signed.   For politicians, the issues that they are most passionate about are sometimes called their signature issues. Their signature represents their interest in those issues.

 

Example: For many Republicans, the signature issues are taxes and government spending.

blog - synecdoche - penthe pen is mightier than the sword

One of the oldest examples of synecdoche in English dates to a British play written in 1839. In this case the pen refers to the power of written documents to cause or end wars, while the sword refers to the power of military weapons to fight a war. Thus, saying that the pen is mightier than the sword indicates that diplomacy is more powerful than military solutions in times of war.

Example: For most American presidents, trouble in the Middle East is a difficult situation to handle. Some prefer military options while others say that the pen is mightier than the sword.

 

Money

hit the pocketbook

A pocketbook is a type of wallet for holding money. When politicians talk about a bad economy affecting the finances of average Americans, they may say that it will hit the pocketbook, meaning their wallet will have less money than usual. In this case, the container represents the important contents inside the container.

Example: The economic crisis of 2008 hit the pocketbook of millions of Americans.

Model of an ancient Roman coin purse
Model of an ancient Roman coin purse

purse strings

Purses for holding money used to be simple leather bags tied with a string. In an old phrase from the Middle Ages, holding the purse strings meant to control the money in the household. As an example of synecdoche, the purse strings represent the money contained in the purse.

Example:  Congress likes to hold the purse strings for funding entitlement programs such as Social Security.

 

Tools and Weapons

blog - synecdoche - forkfield to fork

We use forks to eat our food. In these days of trying to reduce transportation and energy costs of moving food from farms to our groceries stores, politicians have created the phrase of reducing the costs of field to fork. The field represents the farms; the fork represents our eating of the food in our homes.

Example:  Whenever gas prices go up, some politicians support the development of local farmers’ markets to reduce the costs of field to fork.

blog - saber 2rattle sabers

A saber is a type of sword. When some members of Congress begin speaking of going to war against other countries, we may say that they are beginning to rattle their sabers. The sabers represent war or the willingness to go to war.

Example:  After the War in Iraq ended in 2010, some conservative politicians began to rattle their sabers against Iran.

 

Machines

blog - synecdoche - voting_booth voters pull the lever

In some cases, when people go to vote in their communities, they must pull a lever on a small machine that records their votes. In a common phrase, we refer to the process of voting as pulling the lever. The lever represents the entire voting process.

Example: In a presidential campaign, each political party tries to persuade voters to pull the lever for their candidates.

blog - synecdoche - radio dialacross the dial

Before the digital age, radios had a dial that showed the frequencies of each radio station. To go across the dial meant to listen to a wide range of music and news stations. In a modern figurative phrase, to go across the dial means to survey many types of political views on a certain topic. The dial thus represents differing political opinions.

Example:  In the 2008 presidential election, people from all across the dial voted for Barack Obama.

blog - synecdoche - wirewired campaign

Wires have long been used in the construction of radio, television and computer equipment. To say that an office is wired, for example, means that it has the latest technology, especially the best Internet connections and website access. If a campaign is wired, this means that the campaign staff are connecting to voters through websites and social media outlets.

Example: In 2008, some pundits believed that Barack Obama’s wired 2008 campaign helped him win the election.

*******

I think most American English speakers would not even realize that these examples I have described in the last two posts are types of figurative language since they are so commonly used. Once again, I believe these uses of synecdoche illustrate how easily our minds can understand non-literal language and how common synecdoche is in the English language. I often wonder how speakers of English as a second language know what the heck we are talking about most of the time. As always, questions and comments are welcome!

Next time: A Holiday Smorgasbord of Metaphors!

 

Citing My Blog

Hello! I just had a request to explain how to write a citation of my blog posts in research papers. You may use the appropriate style for an electronic source.

Here are two samples for in-text citations and the works cited list using my most popular post about Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech from 2013 in MLA and APA styles. Be sure to check with your professors for other details or style requirements for your particular field.

Please let me know if you have any questions. Thanks for reading!

MLA 

In-Text Citations

Metaphors based on terms from nature are found in some of Martin Luther King’s speeches (Gallagher, “Metaphors in Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech”). 

Works Cited

Gallagher, Andrew. “Metaphors in Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech.” politicalmetaphors. WordPress. 27 Aug. 2013. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.

APA

In-Text Citations

Metaphors based on terms from nature are found in some of Martin Luther King’s speeches (Gallagher, 2013).

Works Cited

A Gallagher. (2013, August 27). Metaphors in Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech. [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.politicalmetaphors.com.

 

 

 

Mike Huckabee’s Metaphors

            In the past few weeks I have analyzed the metaphors used in the campaign announcements from Hillary Clinton and Rand Paul. Each had a variety of political metaphors derived from several different conceptual metaphor categories. Today I would like to share a few examples from the metaphors used by Mike Huckabee in his recent campaign launch. Mr. Huckabee did not use metaphors to the extent of either Mrs. Clinton or Dr. Paul. However, he uses several interesting metaphors from the categories of physical forces, machines, personification and journeys. All examples are taken from the speech which can be seen here.  As always, the metaphors are highlighted in italics. Some quotations are repeated if they contain more than one category of metaphor.

Physical Forces

As with Ron Paul, Mr. Huckabee describes the current Obama government in less than flattering terms. He uses several different metaphors based on physical forces to describe the national economy including unbalanced trade deals and wage laws that undercut American workers. He also described his governorship in Arkansas as very lopsided since he was a Republican governor with many Democrats in the state legislature. He also argues against chopping off Medicare and Social Security payments to people who have paid into the system. He argues that everyone needs a fair shake in life, originally meaning an honest deal sealed with a handshake.

Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.comunbalanced and undercut

Example: “And we don’t create good jobs for Americans by entering into unbalanced trade deals that forego Congressional scrutiny and looking the other way as the law is ignored so we can import low wage labor, undercut American workers, and drive wages lower than the Dead Sea.”

lopsided

Example: “I governed in a state that was the most lopsided and partisan in the country-no Republican Governor had more Democrats and fewer Republicans.”

chop off

Example: “Some propose that to save safety nets like Medicare and Social Security, we need to chop off the payouts for the people who have faithfully had their paychecks and pockets picked by the politicians promising that their money would be waiting for them when they were old and sick.”

blog - personification - handshakea fair shake

Example: “…even in that environment we passed 94 tax cuts, rebuilt our road system, saw dramatic improvements in student test scores, and fought the corruption of the good ol’ boy system so working class people would be given a fair shake.”

Machines

Also like Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee compares the American government to a machine. He describes the political machine that existed in Arkansas when he was governor and the power, money and influence in Washington D.C. that run the country. He also argues that financial markets can be shut down as if they are machines, although we can tinker with the tax codes as if they are metal objects in need of repair.”

run the country

Example: “Like a lot of Americans, I grew up in a small town far removed from the power, the money, and the influence that runs the country.”

political machine

Example: “I challenged the deeply entrenched political machine that ran this state.”

blog - machines - hot buttonshut down markets

Example: “We face not only the threats from terrorism, but also the threat of new kinds of dangers, from a cyber war that could shut down major financial markets to threats of an electromagnetic pulse from an exploded device that could fry the electrical grid and take the country back to the Stone Age in a matter of minutes.”

tinkering

Example: “And I don’t want to hear politicians talk about tinkering with the tax code and making little adjustments that still let powerful Washington interests pick the winners and losers.”

Personification

As we have seen in many past posts, governments are commonly described as people. Huckabee complains that the government picks the pockets of hard-working Americans, or simply grabs their money. He also claims that President Obama’s Affordable Care Act is the result of creating a monster, while he compares the American education system a student to a student who has flunked and needs to be expelled.

pockets picked

Example: “Some propose that to save safety nets like Medicare and Social Security, we need to chop off the payouts for the people who have faithfully had their paychecks and pockets picked by the politicians promising that their money would be waiting for them when they were old and sick.”

blog - business - cashgrab money

Example: “You were forced to pay for Social Security and Medicare for 50 years. The government grabs money from our paychecks and says it will be waiting for us when we turn 65.”

created a monster

Example: “And instead of helping families find affordable health care, we created a monster that forces us to buy coverage we don’t want, don’t need, and can’t afford.”

flunked, expelled

Example: “Why even have a federal department of education? It has flunked and it needs to be expelled.   Education policy should be set by states, local school boards, and best of all, by the moms and dads of the children.”

 

Analogies

Surprisingly, Mr. Huckabee uses several strange analogies describing certain aspects of American government and foreign enemies. He compares Middle Eastern jihadis to deadly snakes, the government to a roach motel, and he claims that he is a blue collar working man instead of being from blue blood royalty.

blog - forces - rattlesnakedeadly snakes

Example: “As President, I promise you that we will no longer merely try to CONTAIN jihadism; we will CONQUER it! We will deal with jihadis just as we would deal with deadly snakes.”

 

roach motel

Example: “Government in Washington is dysfunctional because it’s become the roach motel-people go in, but they never come out. As President I’ll fight for Term limits on all 3 branches of government.”

blue collar / blue blood

Example: “I don’t have a global foundation or a taxpayer funded paycheck to live off of. I don’t come from a family Dynasty, but a working family. I grew up blue collar and not blue blood.”

Journeys

Finally, Mr. Huckabee uses some standard journey metaphors talking about his journey to the White House. Interestingly, his description of going to the White House is both literal and figurative, since Washington D.C. is literally a long way from his hometown of Hope, Arkansas, and figurative since he came a long way to run for president of the United States. Most remarkably, he also describes his journey as being from Hope to Higher Ground, the title of his 2007 book, in which he described working hard to improve one’s life. Metaphorically, Mr. Huckabee describes his own journey to the White House as one from Hope to Higher Ground.

blog - SOTU 15 - curve of the roadlong way to the White House

Example: “It’s a long way from a little brick rent house on 2nd street in Hope, AR to the White House.”

blog - white houseHope to Higher Ground

Example: “But here in this small town called Hope, I was raised to believe that where a person started didn’t mean that’s where he had to stop. I always believed a kid could go from Hope to Higher Ground.”

*****

Clearly, Governor Huckabee is a product of his religious and political background in Arkansas. He has a colorful speaking style using rhetorical strategies and metaphors to relate directly to his fellow “blue collar, not blue blood” citizens. His metaphor usage indicates his ability to tap into common figurative language use especially with personification and journey metaphors. I look forward to analyzing more of his speeches. Stay tuned!

Next time: Metaphors of Memorial Day

Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Video

As mentioned in my last post, several candidates have already announced that they are running for president in the 2016 election. Hillary Clinton not only started giving speeches, she produced a short, two-minute video announcing her candidacy. You can see the video here. This video is fascinating for several reasons.

For one, Mrs. Clinton does not even appear in the video until it is more than half over. The beginning of video features real people discussing their plans to do something new in their lives, e.g., people who are getting new jobs, moving to a new town, getting married or retiring. After many of these vignettes, Mrs. Clinton appears in the video and announces, “I’m getting ready to do something too. I’m running for president.” Now I am no expert on political strategies but it seems that Mrs. Clinton is deliberately using two clever techniques here. First, by showing these vignettes, she is comparing herself to real Americans with real-life problems and life goals. Secondly, she is using a narrative structure similar to a novel or short story. This technique lets the audience know that she is a storyteller, and she wants to be the narrator of the story of America in the next few years.

The other interesting aspect of the video is that Mrs. Clinton uses a striking number of metaphors. In a short script of only 92 words, she uses 13 different conceptual metaphors. I believe she uses these to sound more folksy and in touch with regular American people. This high use of metaphors provides further evidence that it is hard not to speak in metaphors when talking about American politics. I will include the entire script here thanks to the folks at bustle.com for the transcript. The transcript will be followed by the metaphors in Mrs. Clinton’s short speech. As always, I have highlighted the metaphors in italics.

“I’m getting ready to do something too. I’m running for president. Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times. But the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top. Everyday Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion. So you can do more than just get by. You can get ahead, and stay ahead. Because when families are strong, America is strong. So I’m hitting the road to earn your vote, because it’s your time. And I hope you’ll join me on this journey.”

Horse Racing

running for president

blog - candidates - jockeyAs mentioned in my last post, it is very common to compare American elections to horse races.

Example:  “I’m getting ready to do something too. I’m running for president.”

 

get ahead and stay ahead

In any type of race, a person, animal or car must compete with other racers to win. The winner of a race must travel faster than the other competitors in order to get ahead of them and then stay ahead until they cross the finish line. In this case, Mrs. Clinton is comparing American families competing for limited financial resources to runners in a race. With her help they can succeed in American society by winning the race.

Example:  “You can get ahead, and stay ahead.”

Personification

families are strong/America is strong

In the American psyche, we often consider ourselves to be strong people who confront adversity with tenacity and perseverance. This is true perhaps because of our country’s history which began with a revolution against the British, or because we survived a bloody civil war and helped win two world wars. In a common form of personification, American families and even America itself are compared to a human being. Thus, we can say that both American families and America are strong.

Example: “Because when families are strong, America is strong.”

Boxing

PAN AMERICAN GAMES XIIFollowing the sense that Americans are strong people, politicians are doubly confident in their strengths as competitors and survivors. Thus we can have metaphorical expressions of people acting like boxers fighting their way through a tough fight. Even more so like a boxer, some politicians compare themselves to a champion, or someone who wins fights against tough opponents.

fight their way back

Example:  “Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times.”

a champion

Example:  “Everyday Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion.”

Senses

A second metaphor is used in the previous example using our experiences with senses. It is very common to describe abstract processes with concrete experiences. For example, we describe difficult circumstances as being tough as if it is a hard piece of leather or piece of bark. In this case, we refer to economic circumstances as being tough.

blog - senses - tough barktough economic times

Example:  “Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times.”

Cards

blog - cards - Royal_Flushthe deck is stacked

Another way of describing a difficult or unfair situation is by comparing it to a card game. Among friends, the deck of cards is not tampered with and is completely normal. In some cases, people may try to cheat by putting specific cards into special locations in the deck for easy access. This is called stacking the deck. Metaphorically, stacking the deck means that one person or group is unfairly controlling the situation.

Example:  “Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times. But the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top.”

Height

We also create metaphors based on sensory experiences with height. We conceive of people with power and money being at the top of a structure while poor people without power are at the bottom of scale. These metaphors are derived from conceptual metaphors of up being good and down being bad. In this case, the people in power in American government and society are at the top.

Example:  “But the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top.”

Journeys

Finally, perhaps the most powerful and overarching metaphor in the video is that of a journey metaphor which Mrs. Clinton uses both implicitly and explicitly. These journey metaphors take many forms.

fought their way back

In one instance, the American people are fighting their way back from economic times, as if they are coming back from a long journey.

Example:  “Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times.”


blog - journey - obstacle path just get by

We can also speak of making a journey with difficulty as just getting by, as if we are squeezing past an obstacle walking on a path. In this case, Mrs. Clinton combines a horse racing metaphor with a journey metaphor as if people are racing on a journey together.

Example:  “So you can do more than just get by. You can get ahead, and stay ahead.”

hitting the road

An unusual expression about beginning a journey is hitting the road. This phrase is perhaps derived from the sense of our shoes hitting the pavement as we begin to walk.

Example:  “So I’m hitting the road to earn your vote, because it’s your time.”

blog - journey - highwayjoin me on this journey

In the last example, Mrs. Clinton explicitly invites the viewers of the video to go on the metaphorical journey with her as if she and the American people are travelling together to create a better American society.

Example:  “And I hope you’ll join me on this journey.”

******

As I mentioned, these examples illustrate how common metaphors are in everyday speech about politics. I am continuously amazed how strange and difficult this type of language for people learning English as a second or foreign language. I hope that these students can understand these colorful expressions.

Next time: Metaphors in Rand Paul’s Announcement

Launching Campaigns before Running

Even though the 2016 elections are a year and a half away, several candidates have already announced they are running for president: Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio among the Republicans, and the sole Democrat so far, Hillary Clinton. There are three metaphors commonly used to describe these actions, all three of which are fascinating examples how ingrained metaphors are in our daily English language usage. For one, the common phrase of running for president is derived from our collective experience with horse racing. We speak of presidential candidate in a race for the White House as if they are racehorses, and yet no know ever thinks twice about it. We also talk about the campaigns of these candidates. The word campaign was originally used as a term from military operations. In fact the English word campaign is derived word from the French word campagne meaning “country” since military forces often engaged in large battles in open fields in the countryside. This term dates back to Napoleon’s armies in the early 19th century.  Once again, we see how political actions are compared to military operations. Finally, we also find that we say political campaigns are launched. Normally we use the term launch to describe the liftoff or blast of the engines when a rocket begins its trajectory into space. The word launch was originally derived from a Latin term meaning “to throw a spear” related to our term lance.

blog - ACA - rocket

In sum, we cannot even describe a simple beginning of an interest in becoming the president of the United States without using metaphors from three different conceptual domains: horse racing, military operations, and rocket liftoffs. Even more strangely, I cannot think of any alternate literal terms to replace these metaphors. Can you have a process to win an election, begin a campaign, or try to become president? Most of us were taught in school that metaphors and similes are mostly only used in poems and plays, and that normally we speak in literal language. However, these examples are further evidence that thinking in metaphors is a common cognitive process.

Although I have explained some of these metaphors in previous posts, here are a few more examples from horse racing, military operations and vehicles.

 

Horse Racing

blog - horse - out of the gateout of the gate

Horses begin a race locked behind a wide gate. When the race begins, the horses are released and run as fast as they can out of the gate. Metaphorically, anyone beginning a new process may be described as being out of the gate. In politics, candidates and political figures must make quick decisions and be consistent with their messages. Thus they must be quick out of the gate.

Example: Although Barack Obama promised big changes if he were elected president, he was very slow out of the gate and it took years to make any of the changes that he promised during the campaign.

run for office

Horses run to win the race. Similarly, candidates for political office are said to run in an election to win a position in a government. We may also call this running for office.

Example: Any candidate running for office these days needs millions of dollars to have a successful campaign.

running mate

Extending the idea of running for office, the phrase running mate refers to the person who runs for election with someone else. For example, commonly a vice-presidential candidate is called the running mate of the presidential candidate.

Example: Conservative women voters were excited when John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate for vice president in the 2008 election.

blog - horse - front runnerfront runner

When a horse is winning a race, we say that it is out in front of the other horses. We can also say that the horse is the front runner. In a political election, the candidate who is leading in the polls is also referred to as the front runner.

Example: Usually the candidate is who is the strong front runner a month before an election wins the race.

fast track

In a horse race, the horses run on a dirt track inside a horse racing arena. If the track gets wet from recent rains, it will be very hard for the horses to run on it. If the dirt is dry, it will be a fast track for the horses to run on. In common terms, any person or activity that seems to be moving very quickly is said to be on a fast track.

Example: When Paul Ryan was chosen as Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential candidate in 2012, he started on the fast track to political fame and power in the United States.

inside track

On an oval track, the shortest distance for the horses to run is close to the inside rail of the track. In common terms, there are two meanings to the phrase inside track. First, as in horse racing, to be on the inside track means to be on course to win in whatever competition one is engaged in. Secondly, the word inside also has the connotation of having restricted or secret access to something. Thus, to have the inside track on something means that someone has information that is not available to other people.

Example: In 2008 when the housing market crashed and banks started to fail, the economy was on the inside track to be in the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Example: Television reporters in Washington D.C. are always competing to get the inside track on the latest news from the White House.

outside chance

Just as the horses on the inside of the track have the greatest chance of winning, the horses running on the outside have the greatest chance of losing since they have farther to run to win the race. Thus to have an outside chance at completing something means that it is not very likely to happen.

Example: When Barack Obama first announced that he was running for president in 2006, most people thought he only had an outside chance of winning since he was the first African-American in years to try to become president.

blog - horse - photo finishneck and neck

In some horse races, two horses may be running at the same speed in which case the horses’ necks are close to each other and it is difficult to tell who will win the race. We say that the horses are running neck and neck.   In politics, when the candidates are very close to winning the election, we say that the candidates are running neck and neck.

Example: In 2004, John Kerry and George W. Bush were running neck and neck for many months but Bush won the election by a small margin.

home stretch

Towards the end of a horse race, the horses must usually run one last section of track in the middle of the arena. This is called the home stretch because it is the last section or stretch of the track before the horses get home to the finish line. In common terms, the home stretch is the last tiring section of a competition.

Example: Several days before a presidential election, the candidates crisscross the country giving speeches at campaign rallies trying to win as many votes as possible in the home stretch.

Battles

blog - war - revolutionprimary battles

Battles are the names of the primary engagements between armies in a war. Metaphorically, battles can also be fought verbally between people or groups. The notion of battle is commonly used in politics.

Example: In every presidential primary, there are many battles among the candidates to gain the nomination of the party.

battle cry

At the start of every battle, there is a call or cry from the commanding officer to alert the troops to begin fighting. The phrase battle cry can also be used to indicate the beginning of a political process.

Example: In 2011, the Occupy Wall Street protestors used the slogan “We are the 99%! as their battle cry to gain support against the richest 1% of the nation controlling the government.

battleground states

The land where battles are fought are called battlegrounds. In politics, states in which voters may vote for either Democrats or Republicans are called battleground states when candidates fight for the votes for their party.

Example: Ohio and Florida are often considered battleground states in presidential elections.

battle lines are drawn

The exact line separating the land controlled by two fighting armies is called the battle line. Metaphorically, a battle line is the ideological separation between two people or groups. In a public political argument, we may say that battle lines are drawn based on a certain view of a controversial topic.

Example: In the 2012 election, Democrats drew many battles lines with Republicans over the tax breaks given to millionaires and billionaires.

MAP - war - arms trainingcombat

Combat is another word for battles fought between armies in a war. Metaphorically, any verbal argument can be described as combat as well. As a verb the word combat can be used to describe efforts to fight against something.

Example: George W. Bush worked hard to combat the spread of AIDS in Africa during his presidency.

firefight

A firefight is an intense battle between two armies in which a great deal of gunfire is exchanged. In politics, a heated argument may also be called a firefight.

Example: Sometimes a peaceful presidential debate turns into a firefight among the top candidates.

clash

The word clash is an onomatopoetic word meaning that it represents the sound made by two metallic objects hitting together. A physical confrontation between people or battle between armies may be called a clash. However, metaphorically, a disagreement in words or ideas between two people or groups may also be called a clash. Often we speak of a clash of personalities between two people.

Example: During the 2012 Republican presidential primary, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and other candidates clashed over positions on the economy.

Starting Vehicles

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAkick start

Some motorcycles require the rider to start the motor by forcefully kicking a pedal. This is known as kick starting the motorcycle. Metaphorically, to kick start something means to begin a new process with great energy and enthusiasm.

Example: Most presidential candidates kick start their campaigns with a big rally at a famous landmark.

kick into gear, put in high gear

Many vehicles have different gears for different speeds. Starting a motorcycle or changing a gear on a bicycle requires the use of one’s foot. This may be called kicking it into gear. Increasing the speed may be referred to as putting the vehicle into high gear.   Figuratively, kicking something into gear means beginning a new process.

Example: During a bad economy, a president may need to kick a new jobs program into high gear to reduce unemployment.

shift gears

Some cars, trucks and buses have manual transmissions which require the driver to shift from lower to higher gears to travel. Figuratively, shifting gears means to change one’s focus from one project to another.

Example: Presidential candidates may need to shift gears during a campaign depending on current events or the questions of media reporters.

blog - vehicles - Shift_stickstuck in neutral

When the gears are not engaged, we say the vehicle is in neutral. It is impossible for the engine to move the engine forward or backward when it is in neutral. In a figurative phrase, being stuck in neutral means that a person or group of people is not making progress towards a desired goal.

Example: Peace talks between warring countries in the Middle East always seem to be stuck in neutral. 

lurch

Originally a nautical term, to lurch meant that a ship moved to the side instead of going straight ahead. Now it can also mean the jerky movement of any vehicle forward or to the side. Often when the vehicle does not go smoothly into the next gear, it may lurch forward. Metaphorically, the irregular or inconsistent action of a person or group of people may be called lurching.

Example: Political tensions between two countries with nuclear weapons may lurch the world toward a nuclear war.

freewheeling

A freewheel is a special type of clutch used in some bicycles, motorcycles and trucks that allows the driveshaft to spin freely under certain operating conditions. The freewheel allows the driveshaft to spin without any friction or resistance. Metaphorically, freewheeling means to engage in behavior without any rules or regulations.

Example: Presidential candidates normally do not like to have freewheeling town meetings with the general public. They prefer to have more structured question and answer sessions.

blog - vehicles - Disk_brakeput the brakes on

When a driver needs to slow down a vehicle, he or she needs to apply or put on the brakes. In a figurative phrase, putting the brakes on something means limiting or stopping an action already in progress.

Example: Many environmentalists would like to put the brakes on building new nuclear power plants around the world.

*******

It is pretty clear that we describe politics in English using a wide variety of conceptual metaphors. It is amazing that we can hardly talk about candidates for an election without resorting to metaphors from war, horse racing and vehicles. Please let me know if you hear any more unusual examples as these candidates conduct their campaigns.

Next time: Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Video

Metaphors of Farm Animals

Greetings!  As promised, today I have a few more examples of metaphors derived from animals.  This time I look at cows, oxen, sheep, goats and pigs.  Believe it or not, they do indeed exist!  Previously I wrote a short blog on cows and beef, but today I offer a more complete list.  Note that most of these terms originated in the history of farming and ranching, some from our English-speaking ancestors in Great Britain, others from our own experience in the western United States. As mentioned last time, these metaphors illustrate the close relationship between humans and animals for work, companionship or food.  Please let me know if you have any questions about these fascinating metaphors.

Cows and Oxen

blog - animals - Cow_female_black_whitecow

Cows are animals that can be easily grouped or herded into specific places.  People can be cowed if they do not stand up for what they believe in.

Example:  President Obama does not seem to be cowed by the efforts of the powerful lobbyists to change policies to benefit their corporations.

maverick

A young cow that is found without a brand is said to be a maverick, named after a rancher named Maverick who often did not brand his cows.  In political terms, a maverick is someone who is very independent of political parties.

Example:  John McCain is known as being a maverick for opposing policies of any party that he does not agree with.

blog - animals - Texas_longhorn_cattle_bull_grazingbull, bull sessions, bully and the bully pulpit

A bull is a male cow.  The term bull or bully can have many meanings in politics.  Bulls can be very strong and aggressive.  Thus, to bully people means to act aggressively towards them and get them to do what the bully wants them to do.  The word bully is also an old expression meaning, “Great! Exciting!”  The phrase bully pulpit was first used to describe the speeches of Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, 1901-1909.  A pulpit is the place in a church where the priest or pastor gives his sermon to the congregation.  Politicians are sometimes described as having a bully pulpit when they tend to lecture and tell the Congress or the American people what to do.  Bull feces can be called bullshit, (a swear word in English), sometimes shortened to just bull.  This term in turn can be used to describe something that has no value, so to talk bull means to speak without telling the truth.  Conversations with lots of bull can be called bull sessions.

Example:  The American people become frustrated if politicians only engage in bull sessions and do not get anything done.

Example:  A good political leader does not bully his colleagues.  Rather, he needs to work with them cooperatively.

Example:  A strong president trying to pass new laws must sometimes use the bully pulpit to get his ideas across.

The famous bull sculpture on New York's Wall Street
The famous bull sculpture on New York’s Wall Street

bull market

When the stock market is on an upward trend and investors are very confident in investing money, this is called a bull market, comparing the market to the strength and power of a bull.  (Compare to a bear market below.)

Example:  It is always good to invest money in a bull market; this is when investors make the most money.

drive

The word drive has many meanings, most commonly today used to mean operate a car or truck.  However, ranchers would often drive their animals to get them to where they wanted them to go, as in a cattle drive.  In general, to drive means to propel something forward.

Example:  The collapse of the banking system drove the economy further into a recession.

beef and beef up

The meat of a cow is called beef.  The size and weight of a cow has allowed the word beef to be used to indicate strength and importance.  The word beef can be used to mean a complaint, as in “What’s your beef?”  One can also use the expression, beef up, meaning to make something stronger.

Example:  Congress is trying to beef up the laws to protect children from abusive parents.

wrangling

Workers on a farm or ranch who catch and control the animals are said to wrangle with them.  In politics, when people argue or fight, this may be called wrangling as well.

Example:  Most Americans get tired of politicians wrangling over policies instead of getting things done and helping the people.

blog - animals - cattle branding vintagebrand

Rancher must put a mark or brand on the skin of their cows so that they are not stolen by other ranchers.  This same word is used to indicate the names of companies or political policies.

Example:  Some Democrats say Barack Obama has introduced a new brand of politics with his emphasis on helping the poor and middle class.

stampede

A stampede occurs when an entire herd of animals runs in the same direction without being controlled by anyone.  In political terms, members of Congress may be stampeded by other politicians who try to pass bills or make laws without giving everyone a chance to study the policies.

Example:  Some critics said that the Patriot Act of 2001, designed to increase anti-terrorism policies of the U.S. government, was stampeded through Congress without many members realizing what the bill actually meant.

fence mending

Ranchers must separate their animals from other ranchers’ animals with strong fences.  If a fence is broken, the animals can run away and cause trouble for the other ranchers.  Thus, one must constantly mend or fix the fences to keep the animals safe and avoid problems with neighbors.  In politics, fence mending means that two politicians who disagreed on something must talk it over and reach a new agreement.

Example:  Republicans are Democrats are always in the process of mending fences to get bills passed in Congress.

blog - animals - earmarkearmark

A rancher with hundreds of cows must mark each one to indicate the gender and age of each animal.  Usually a tag with this information is attached to the ear of each cow, thus called an earmark.  In political terms, an earmark is money secretly put in a bill by a member of Congress to pay for a project in his or her home district, without the rest of Congress knowing that it is part of the bill.

Example:  In 2005, Alaskan senator Ted Stevens famously tried to use an earmark to build a bridge costing $400 million that would be used by only 50 people.

dig in heels

When a rancher is trying to control and stop a large animal from running away, he needs to dig in his heels, or get a firm footing on the ground, or else the animal will get away.   In political terms, someone who does not change his or her position on a policy is said to dig in his heels.

Example:  In the 1990s, President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary dug in their heels to try to get a new health care system for America, but Congress did not approve their plans.

harness

A harness is a set of strong leather straps used by the rider or driver to control strong work animals such as horses or oxen.  In popular terms, people speak of being able to harness sources of energy such as the wind or solar power or even harness the will or energy of the American people.

Example:  A good president can harness the energy of all the members of Congress to pass laws to help the American people.

blog - animals - yokeyoke

A yoke is similar to a harness in that it is used to control a strong animal although it is usually larger and made of wood.  In political terms, sometimes people without power are said to be under the yoke of a bad government or unfair policies.

Example:  For hundreds of years, African-Americans suffered under the yoke of slavery.

feed

Animals, like people, need to be fed every day.  Hungry animals eat a lot of food when they can get it.  In politics, journalists like to get many news stories every day to publish in their newspapers and magazines, or television and radio programs.  This process is sometimes called feeding the beast.

Example:  The White House Press Secretary is always feeding news stories to the press.

Sheep, Goats, and Pigs

A shepherd with his flock in Romania
A shepherd with his flock in Romania

fold

A fold is a name for a group of animals on a farm, especially for sheep.  Farmers like to keep the sheep together in the fold.  If an animal runs away or is lost, the farmers try to get it back in the fold.  In politics, someone who strays from the values or policies of a political party or religious group is asked to come back to the fold.

Example:  Members of Congress who lean too far to the left or right may be asked to come back to the fold of their parties and not be too extreme.

tending the flock

A group of sheep is called a flock, similar to a fold or flock of birds (see above).  To tend the flock means to take care of all the sheep in that group.  In politics, tending the flock means to take care of the needs of a politician’s constituents or followers.

Example:  Presidential candidates must always tend their flocks if they want to get everyone’s vote in the election.

bellwether

A wether is an old name for a ram or male sheep.  A bell was hung on the neck of the dominant wether in a flock so that the other sheep would follow him, making it easier for the shepherds to herd the flock.  In modern times, a bellwether is something that is an indicator of other things to come.

Example:  The many home foreclosures in the summer of 2008 was a bellwether for the troubling economic problems that soon developed throughout the country.

stray far

Animals on a farm or ranch such as cows, sheep or goats, cannot go far from the ranch or else they will be lost or killed.  To stray means that the animals go away from the farm; ranchers hope that they do not stray far. In political terms, to stray far means that the person is getting away from the policies or values of his or her party.

Example:  In the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney tried not to stray far from the values of his conservative Republican party but lost the election to Barack Obama.

blog - animals - goatscapegoat

In ancient Jewish culture, a goat was symbolically given all of the sins of the community and sent into the wilderness, thus relieving everyone of their sins.  The animal was referred to as a scapegoat. Today, a scapegoat is someone who is blamed for the mistakes of other people.

Example:  During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Michael Brown, the director of the federal emergency services, was made the scapegoat of all that went wrong in trying to help the people in the floods.

hog tie

When a farmer needs to catch a hog, or large pig, the workers tie rope around his legs very tightly so that the hog cannot move.  This is referred to a hog tie.  In popular terms, to hog-tie people is to prevent them from doing something they want to do.

Example:  Members of Congress sometimes hog-tie the president when he tries to pass a bill they don’t like by constantly voting it down.

*******

Once again, we can see many examples of how we create metaphors based on every day experiences.  Our close relationships with animals have given us some of our most colorful metaphors.

Next weekend marks the national holiday for Martin Luther King, Jr.  I am working on an analysis of another one of his brilliant speeches.  Stay tuned!

Next time:  Metaphors of Martin Luther King, Jr. 

2nd Anniversary/Metaphors of Taste

blog - anniversary - 2 burning_candlesHello dear readers!  Before I get to the meat and potatoes of the blog post today, I have two quick announcements. First, I am proud to announce that this weekend marks the 2nd anniversary of the blog.  It’s hard to believe it has been two years already.  My how time flies when you are having fun with linguistics!  I have had over 70,000 views the past two years with 110 posts.  I am proud to help high school, college and graduate school students (and their teachers and professors) all over the world understand metaphor usage in American politics.  Keep the comments and emails coming!

Secondly, I should mention that this will be my last post for the year.  I am sure most of my readers will be busy with their families and friends for the holidays, as am I.  I will continue the blog after the first of the year.  The study of politics in the year 2015 promises to continue to be a rich source of metaphor usage.  There is no end of twists and turns in American politics:  Normalization of relations with Cuba after 50 years of an economic embargo?  A cyber attack by North Korea on Sony Pictures? A lame duck president?  Candidates are already lining up for the 2016 election? Dozens of Tea Party conservatives fighting for a chance to be the Republican nominee?  A possible square-off between the dynasties of the Clintons and Bushes?  The current 113th Congress with the worst record of passing bills in American history?  The most double speak and empty promises I have heard in a long time from both Democrats and Republicans in Congress?  Stay tuned for 2015!

Back to 2014, today I would like to share a few examples of metaphors of taste.  Since everyone is going to holiday parties to eat a wide variety of appetizers, entrees, desserts and drink specialized beverages, I thought it would be appropriate to end the year with a few examples of metaphors based on our experiences with one of our favorite senses.  Once again, we find instances of turning physical experiences into metaphorical expressions.

blog - taste - Christmas_Cookies_Platefultaste of something

Figuratively, we can also have a taste of something if we have a short experience with it.

Example:  Critics of Barack Obama complained that his first few years in office gave Americans a taste of socialism.

good taste, bad taste

The word taste can also mean the choices one makes in clothing, food, entertainment, etc.  For example, one can have good taste in clothes but bad taste in movies.  In politics, campaign ads can be seen as being in good taste or bad taste depending on their content.

Example:  American voters tend to think that negative campaign ads smearing the reputation of an opponent are done in bad taste.

blog - taste - sugarsweet

If food contains natural or artificial sugar, we say that it tastes sweet, such as fruit, candy or many types of desserts.  The word sweet can also figuratively mean anything that is very good.  In politics we may speak of sweet results of an election or a sweet victory in Congress.

Example:  When Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act was passed by Congress in 2011, it was a sweet victory for the Democrats.

sweet-talk

Figuratively, we can also say that the words we say can be sweet, or that we can sweet-talk someone by telling them things that they want to hear to achieve a mutual goal.

Example:  An American president may have to sweet-talk the members of Congress to get bills passed.

blog - taste - Lemonsour

Another common taste is sour, as in lemons or green apples.  The word sour can also indicate a feeling of disappointment or frustration in people.

Example:  Some liberal voters who supported Barack Obama in the 2008 election soured on supporting him in 2012 since he was not able to accomplish the progressive reforms he promised during his campaign.

Chinese bitter melon
Chinese bitter melon

bitter

The opposite of sweet is bitter, a bad taste that most people avoid.  Metaphorically, people can have bitter attitudes or feelings if they feel that they have been hurt by other people.

Example:  In 2008, Barack Obama famously said that when people feel disappointed by their government, “…it’s not surprising then that they get bitter [and] cling to guns and religion…”.

Guittard bittersweet chocolate
Guittard bittersweet chocolate

bittersweet

A food that has a mixture of bitter and sweet taste can be called bittersweet.  Metaphorically, an event that has a mixture of good and bad results may also be called bittersweet.

Example:  The death of Osama bin Laden in May of 2011 was a bittersweet victory for the families of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  While they may have been pleased that bin Laden was gone, his death brought back painful memories of their loved ones.

bitter dispute, bitter defeat, bitter rivals

The word bitter can also be used to describe bad relations between people as in bitter rivals, bad arguments as in bitter disputes, or a bad loss in a competition as in a bitter defeat.

Example:  In the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama became bitter rivals while Romney did not want to repeat the bitter defeat of John McCain four years earlier.

blog - taste - 2015_new_year

Next time:  Check back in 2015!

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Election Metaphors: Horse Racing

A political campaign is often compared to a horse race.  The horses, betting procedures and methods for determining the winner in a horse race are commonly used to describe elections.

Before the Race

race

A horse race involves people betting a lot of money on horses that they think can win.  In a political campaign, people put a lot of money behind candidates whom they hope can win an election.  Thus an election is often compared to a horse race.

Example:  Candidates wishing to run for the president of the United States must enter the race at least a year or two before the election in order to have time to raise money and get the public to know them.

blog - horse - Racing_at_Arlington_Park

place bets

People at a horse race place bets on the horses that they think will win.  In common terms, we also metaphorically place bets on political candidates.

Example:  In the 2012 presidential election, many conservatives placed their bets on Mitt Romney.  However, he was not able to win the election.

on the ticket

A person who bets at a horse race receives a small piece of paper called a ticket which lists the names of the horses he or she has just bet on.  Thus the horse one bets for is on the ticket.  In politics, we also say that a person who runs for office is on the ticket.  Additionally, one can bet on several horses at the same time, including the horse one thinks will win, place (come in second) or show (come in third) in the race.  Thus, we also say that a president and vice president will be on the same ticket.

Example:  Everyone was surprised when John McCain chose Sarah Palin to be on the ticket with him as the vice-presidential candidate in 2008.

ticket splitters

The metaphorical idea of ticket can be stretched even further when a person votes for candidates from two different political parties.  This is sometimes called splitting the ticket.  The person does this is referred to as a ticket splitter.

Example:  Most political candidates do not like people to be ticket splitters on election day because they hurt the unity of the party.

During the Race

blog - horse - out of the gateout of the gate

Horses begin a race locked behind a wide gate.  When the race begins, the horses are released and run as fast as they can out of the gate.  Metaphorically, anyone beginning a new process may be described as being out of the gate.  In politics, candidates and political figures must make quick decisions and be consistent with their messages.  Thus they must be quick out of the gate.

Example:  Although Barack Obama promised big changes if he were elected president, he was very slow out of the gate and it took years to make any of the changes that he promised during the campaign.

run for office

Horses run to win the race.  Similarly, candidates for political office are said to run in an election to win a position in a government.  We may also call this running for office.

Example:  Any candidate running for office these days needs millions of dollars to have a successful campaign.

running mate

Extending the idea of running for office, the phrase running mate refers to the person who runs for election with someone else.  For example, commonly a vice-presidential candidate is called the running mate of the presidential candidate.

Example:  Conservative women voters were excited when John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate for vice president in the 2008 election.

run the risk

Although the origin of this phrase is unclear, when we do something that may have a negative outcome, we may say that we are running a risk.  In horse racing, when the horse runs, it runs with no guarantee that it will win the race.  Thus, there is a risk that the horse will not win.  In politics, a very common phrase to describe something that may have a bad outcome for the person or group is running a risk.

Example:  When political candidates appear on popular TV shows, they run the risk of not being considered a serious professional.

blog - horse - front runnerfront runner

When a horse is winning a race, we say that it is out in front of the other horses.  We can also say that the horse is the front runner.  In a political election, the candidate who is leading in the polls is also referred to as the front runner.

Example:  Usually the candidate is who is the strong front runner a month before an election wins the race.

fast track

In a horse race, the horses run on a dirt track inside a horse racing arena.  If the track gets wet from recent rains, it will be very hard for the horses to run on it.  If the dirt is dry, it will be a fast track for the horses to run on.  In common terms, any person or activity that seems to be moving very quickly is said to be on a fast track. 

Example:  When Paul Ryan was chosen as Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential candidate in 2012, he started on the fast track to political fame and power in the United States.

blog - horse - inside trackinside track

On an oval track, the shortest distance for the horses to run is close to the inside rail of the track.  In common terms, there are two meanings to the phrase inside track.  First, as in horse racing, to be on the inside track means to be on course to win in whatever competition one is engaged in.  Secondly, the word inside also has the connotation of having restricted or secret access to something.  Thus, to have the inside track on something means that someone has information that is not available to other people.

Example:  In 2008 when the housing market crashed and banks started to fail, the economy was on the inside track to be in the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Example:  Television reporters in Washington D.C. are always competing to get the inside track on the latest news from the White House.

outside chance

Just as the horses on the inside of the track have the greatest chance of winning, the horses running on the outside have the greatest chance of losing since they have farther to run to win the race.  Thus to have an outside chance at completing something means that it is not very likely to happen.

Example:  When Barack Obama first announced that he was running for president in 2006, most people thought he only had an outside chance of winning since he was the first African-American in years to try to become president.

 

Calvin Borel:  Three-time Kentucky Derby winning jockey
Calvin Borel: Three-time Kentucky Derby winner

jockey for position

When the horses are running the race, the jockeys (persons who ride the horses) must try to get in the best position possible so that they can win the race.  Of course, every jockey wants to be on the inside track so they must fight to get where they want to be.  This is called jockeying for position.  In politics, we may also say that candidates must jockey for position to gain the best advantage and win the election.  Beyond an election, politicians may also jockey for position to try to pass a bill, gain more influence on the president, or earn a higher position within the government.

Example:  When a new president enters the White House, members of Congress of the majority party jockey for position to become the Speaker of the House or the Senate Majority Leader.

pull even with

In some cases, one horse may be leading a race, but another horse may catch up and run at the same speed as the front runner.  This is called pulling even with the other horse.  In an election, when one candidate is leading in the polls but another candidate catches up, this may also be called pulling even with the other candidate.

Example:  In 2008, it seemed that John McCain was pulling even with Barack Obama, but Obama was able to win the election in the end.

keep pace with

When two horses are running at the same speed, we may say that they are keeping pace with each other.  In common terms, we may describe many processes at keeping pace with something else if they are occurring at the same rate of speed.

Example:  When an economy is not good and people start losing jobs, it is very sad when the government’s job creation programs cannot keep pace with the rate of job losses.

blog - horse - neck and neckneck and neck

In some horse races, two horses may be running at the same speed in which case the horses’ necks are close to each other and it is difficult to tell who will win the race.  We say that the horses are running neck and neck.   In politics, when the candidates are very close to winning the election, we say that the candidates are running neck and neck.

Example:  In 2004, John Kerry and George W. Bush were running neck and neck for many months but Bush won the election by a small margin.

home stretch

Towards the end of a horse race, the horses must usually run one last section of track in the middle of the arena.  This is called the home stretch because it is the last section or stretch of the track before the horses get home to the finish line.  In common terms, the home stretch is the last tiring section of a competition.

Example:  Several days before a presidential election, the candidates crisscross the country giving speeches at campaign rallies trying to win as many votes as possible in the home stretch.

At the Finish Line

hands down

One unusual phrase borrowed from horse racing is the term hands down.  When a jockey is far ahead of the other horses and is certain to win the race, he or she will relax the grip in the reins controlling the horse and put his or her hands down towards the sides of the horse.  In horse racing, this is referred to as winning the race hands down.  In common terms, when someone wins a sports game or political election by a large margin, this is also called winning hands down.  In a related second meaning, we can also say that something absolutely certain is hands down, usually referring to someone’s opinion of a controversial matter.

Example:  In the 1980 presidential election, Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter hands down.

Example:  The worst economic times in the United States must be the Great Depression in the 1930s, hands down.

dark horse

A dark horse in a horse race is one that is not expected to do well, but finishes surprisingly well or even wins the race.  The word dark sometimes carries the connotation of something secret or mysterious. In politics, a dark horse is a candidate in an election who surprises everyone with the strong finish.

Example:  In the 2010 primary races for Republicans, many dark horse Tea Party candidates beat out traditional Republican incumbents.

dead ringer

Another unusual horse racing term is a dead ringer.  This term refers to a fast horse that is illegally substituted for a slow horse in a race.  The word ringer is derived from the term ring meaning to substitute for something as in the phrase ring in the New Year.  The word dead is used in the sense of being exact or complete as in the phrase dead wrong. In common terms, a person or thing that looks exactly like someone or something else is called a dead ringer.

Example:  In 2008, a photographer from Indonesia named Ilham Anas gained fame because he is a dead ringer for Barack Obama.

too close to call

In horse racing, the winner is called on the loudspeaker of the racetrack once the winning horse is determined.  If the horses are neck and neck, the announcer may say that the race is too close to call until the officials can review the photographs taken at the finish line.  On an election night, if the candidates are all receiving approximately the same amount of votes, we say that the election is too close to call.

Example:  In 2000, the presidential election between Al Gore and George W. Bush was too close to call on election night.  Several weeks later, after many vote recounts, George Bush was declared the winner. 

down to the wire

Another expression similar to too close to call is down to the wire.  Before the days of high-speed cameras, horse racing tracks had a wire suspended above the finish line so that the officials could determine the winner by seeing the first horse that passed under the wire.  In politics, any close election may be called a race down to the wire.

Example:  One might say that the election between George W. Bush and Al Gore went down to the wire.

blog - horse - photo finishphoto finish

In modern times, high-speed photography is used at the end of every horse race.  In cases where the winner is too close to call, the officials look at the photographs to determine exactly which horse won the race.  This is called a photo finish.  Similarly, an election with two candidates earning almost equal totals of votes might be called a photo finish.

Example:  George W. Bush and John Kerry had a photo finish election in 2004.  George Bush won the election by a small margin.

poor showing

As mentioned, the third place position in a horse race is called the show.  This finish implies that even though the horse did not win, it at least showed up near the winner.  In common terms, a showing also implies a good effort although not a win.  In politics, candidates who do not win but make a good effort may be referred to as those with poor showings.

Example:  In the 2010 midterm elections, the Democrats had poor showings in several states and lost many seats in Congress.

bet on the wrong horse

If one bets money on a horse, one hopes that this horse will win the race.  If that horse loses, we say that we simply bet on the wrong horse.  In politics, if we support a candidate who loses an election, we may also say that we bet on the wrong horse.

Example:  No one likes to bet on the wrong horse in an election.  It pays to do research on the views and popularity of each candidate.

Oxbow wins the 2013 Preakness Stakes
Oxbow wins the 2013 Preakness Stakes

pick the winning horse

In horse racing, a person can win a great deal of money if one picks and bets on the winning horse.   In politics, picking a winning candidate in an election is also called picking the winning horse.

Example:  In 2012, Americans who voted for Barack Obama picked the winning horse.

If you tune in to the election coverage on Tuesday night, I am sure you will hear many of these metaphors.  Let me know if you hear any new ones about horse racing!

Next time:  More Election Metaphors