Tag Archives: obama

Golden Gate Bridge

Flashback: Obama’s Speech in Cairo, 2009

Following last week’s post, I continue today to add another analysis of the metaphors of Barack Obama’s speeches in response to requests from my readers. On June 4, 2009, President Obama gave a speech in Cairo, Egypt to discuss the challenges of controlling the unrest in the Middle East. The speech may seem a bit dated now, but still reveals many important views of the newly elected president with regard to the Middle East. It also contains a wide variety of metaphors. The examples included today range from metaphors from nature, farming and ranching, music and theater, buildings, personification, physical forces and journeys. The metaphors of physical forces are especially interesting in that Obama uses terms of physical stress and tension to describe the troubles in the Middle East.

All examples are taken directly from the transcript of the speech. Some quotations are repeated if they contain metaphors in several different categories. Italics are mine.

 

Nature

Many political speeches include metaphors from nature due to our close relationship with our environment. In this speech, President Obama uses the metaphors of political movements being born, political tension being rooted in historical forces, while describing separation between religious groups as being in flames, and learning as being a light carried through the centuries.

blog - nature - New_born_poodleExample: “We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words — within our borders, and around the world.”

Example: “We meet at a time of great tension between the United States and Muslims around the world — tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate.”

Example: “That is the world we seek. But we can only achieve it together.

blog - fire - fireExample: I know there are many — Muslim and non-Muslim — who question whether we can forge this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress.”

Example: “As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam. It was Islam — at places like Al-Azhar — that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment.”

 

Farming and Ranching

Humans have long controlled their environments by raising crops and animals. President Obama describes hatred as something that can be sown like seeds on a farm, while extremist violence breeds fear and mistrust like ranchers breed animals, and tension is fed by colonialism like ranchers feed their animals.

Example: “So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity.”

Example: “The attacks of September 11, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. All this has bred more fear and more mistrust.”

blog - nature - feeding cowsExample: “More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations.”

 

Music and Theater

Comparisons are often made between politics and theater or music. In this case, politicians and countries can play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations while there is musical harmony between traditions and progress.

blog - music - harmony BeatlesExample: “I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and to be hosted by two remarkable institutions.   And together, you represent the harmony between tradition and progress.”

Example: “To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel’s right to exist.”

 

Buildings

Politicians often compare government programs to buildings. Thus we can take concrete actions and build new programs and countries.

blog - building - concrete blockExample: “We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.” (Applause.)

Example: “Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build.”

Example: “Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible.” (Applause.)

 

Personification

Countries are often seen as people in the type of metaphors known as personification. In this case, President Obama speaks of countries expanding their reach while Americans will not turn their backs on the Palestinians.

Example: “They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with.”

Example: “And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.” (Applause.)

 

Physical Forces

It is quite striking that the most common type of metaphor used by President Obama to describe the problems in the Middle East are those metaphors of physical forces. He describes countries being shaped by culture, elevated by a good world order or bonded with other countries. The solidity of physical objects are described in various ways such as bonds which are unbreakable while freedoms are indivisible and beliefs that are unyielding as if they are all made of steel. Governments can also take hold of and maintain power as if they are physical objects. However, the most common metaphor in the entire speech is by far that of tension, used to describe the unrest in the Middle East, as if the countries are objects under tremendous pressure. President Obama used the metaphor of tension a total of nine times.

Example: “We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum — “’Out of many, one.’”

Example: “Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail.”

blog - physical forces - unbreakable glassExample: “America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.”

Example: “Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one’s religion.”

Example: “But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose.”

Example: “So no matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who would hold power: You must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.”

blog - physical forces - tension bridgeExample: “We meet at a time of great tension between the United States and Muslims around the world — tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate.”

 

Journey

Not surprisingly, President Obama also uses a wide variety of journey metaphors to explain how the Middle East needs to progress from chaos to peace. Some long journeys require studying a road map, and then people need to take steps to start the journey or launch their vehicles as if they are rockets. People who take the journeys need to make sure they are not going down a dead end, or trapped in a certain place; rather they must move forward. They need to go down the correct path, although it may be dangerous. They may also need to understand what brought them to a certain point of the journey before they can continue forward, or find a bridge to a new route.   They may need to look for a beacon in the distance to achieve their goal as if they are on a ship in stormy seas looking for a lighthouse.

blog - journey - road mapExample: “The obligations — the obligations that the parties have agreed to under the road map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them — and all of us — to live up to our responsibilities.”

Example: “Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be a critical part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.”

Example: “On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim-majority countries, and to help transfer ideas to the marketplace so they can create more jobs.”

blog - journey - dead end signExample: “This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end.”

Example: “Rather than remain trapped in the past, I’ve made it clear to Iran’s leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward.”

Example: “This is not simply about America’s interests. It’s about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.”

Example: “It’s easier to start wars than to end them. It’s easier to blame others than to look inward. It’s easier to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path.”

Example: “I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. I know there’s been a lot of publicity about this speech, but no single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have this afternoon all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly to each other the things we hold in our hearts and that too often are said only behind closed doors.”

Golden Gate BridgeExample: “Around the world, we can turn dialogue into interfaith service, so bridges between peoples lead to action — whether it is combating malaria in Africa, or providing relief after a natural disaster.”

Example: “For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning; and for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt’s advancement.”

*******

This speech is interesting for several reasons. Historically, it is the only speech I know of given by a sitting U.S. president from Cairo, Egypt. Metaphorically, it contains a wide variety of rich metaphors. While the journey metaphors were not surprising, it is telling that there were many metaphors of physical forces to describe the unrest in the Middle East while the most frequent metaphor of all was that of tension. Sadly, there has not been much progress in the Middle East since this speech in 2009. Even more tension has arisen since the growth of ISIS and the more recent terrorist attacks. I will continue to monitor how metaphors are used to describe the continued acts of terrorism around the world.

 

Next time:  Back to the campaign trail

blog - personification - Clenched_human_fist

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…

 

President Barack Obama attends a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Jan. 28, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

State of the Union Address 2016, Part 2

As I mentioned last time, President Obama’s most recent State of the Union Address was not a typical SOTU speech. It looked backwards more than looking forwards. He also didn’t use a great number of metaphors. However, there were several examples of metaphors of sports, nature, machines and buildings that I covered in my last post. Today I would like to describe several more complex metaphors from physical forces, personification and journeys. As always, the examples are direct quotations from the transcript of the speech. Italics are mine.

Physical Forces

Ever since we were toddlers, we have learned to control our environment with our hands and our tools. We shape and tie and cut things thousands of times in our lives. We can bind something with string or be bound by a common creed. We can plant seeds in a trench, or have entrenched interests. We can also shape and reshape our lives, push and pull our way through lives, or lift, boost and elevate our lives. We also see more violent metaphors such as beat, break through, take out, and stamp out problems. Finally, there are numerous examples of cutting abstract processes as if they are vegetables on a cutting board. President Obama uses all of these metaphors of physical processes to describe his programs and goals for the future.

Example: “Voices that help us see ourselves not first and foremost as black or white or Asian or Latino, not as gay or straight, immigrant or native born; not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans first, bound by a common creed. Voices Dr. King believed would have the final word — voices of unarmed truth and unconditional love.”

Example: “None of this will happen overnight, and yes, there are plenty of entrenched interests who want to protect the status quo.”

blog - SOTU16 - shape potteryExample: “We’re every immigrant and entrepreneur from Boston to Austin to Silicon Valley racing to shape a better world.”

Example: “We live in a time of extraordinary change — change that’s reshaping the way we live, the way we work, our planet and our place in the world. It’s change that promises amazing medical breakthroughs, but also economic disruptions that strain working families.”

Example: “Right now, we are on track to end the scourge of HIV/AIDS, and we have the capacity to accomplish the same thing with malaria — something I’ll be pushing this Congress to fund this year.”

Example: “It’s made it harder for a hardworking family to pull itself out of poverty, harder for young people to start on their careers, and tougher for workers to retire when they want to.”

blog - forces - pullExample: “…but on issues of global concern, we will mobilize the world to work with us, and make sure other countries pull their own weight.”

Example: “The bipartisan reform of No Child Left Behind was an important start, and together, we’ve increased early childhood education, lifted high school graduation rates to new highs, and boosted graduates in fields like engineering.”

Example: “There are a whole lot of folks in this chamber who would like to see more cooperation, a more elevated debate in Washington, but feel trapped by the demands of getting elected.”

Example: “Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there.”

Example: “Ask the leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, who was taken out last year, or the perpetrator of the Benghazi attacks, who sits in a prison cell.”

blog - SOTU16 - stamp outExample: “That’s how we stopped the spread of Ebola in West Africa. Our military, our doctors, and our development workers set up the platform that allowed other countries to join us in stamping out that epidemic.”

Example: “More than 14 million new jobs; the strongest two years of job growth since the ’90s; an unemployment rate cut in half.”

Example: “Now, we’ve actually got to cut the cost of college.”

Example: “I think there are outdated regulations that need to be changed, and there’s red tape that needs to be cut.”

blog - SOTU16 - cutting vegetablesExample: “Meanwhile, we’ve cut our imports of foreign oil by nearly sixty percent, and cut carbon pollution more than any other country on Earth.”

 

Body Position and Personification

We deal with the world by seeing it with our eyes and facing it with our bodies. Thus, we have many metaphors based on our own body positions. We also commonly use personification in politics, acting as if the entire United States is one person. We face our adversaries, turn inward and turn against each other. We also have standing in the world, and reach our limits, and be clear-eyed and big-hearted. Countries and government programs can also have strengths and weaknesses.

President Barack Obama attends a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Jan. 28, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

Example: “But such progress is not inevitable. It is the result of choices we make together. And we face such choices right now. Will we respond to the changes of our time with fear, turning inward as a nation, and turning against each other as a people? Or will we face the future with confidence in who we are, what we stand for, and the incredible things we can do together?”

blog - SOTU16 - reachExample: “Surveys show our standing around the world is higher than when I was elected to this office, and when it comes to every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead — they call us.”

Example: “When you come after Americans, we go after you. It may take time, but we have long memories, and our reach has no limit.”

Example: “That’s the America I know. That’s the country we love. Clear-eyed. Big-hearted.”

blog - SOTU16 - strong America womenExample: “That’s why Social Security and Medicare are more important than ever; we shouldn’t weaken them, we should strengthen them.”

Example: “As someone who begins every day with an intelligence briefing, I know this is a dangerous time. But that’s not because of diminished American strength or some looming superpower.”

Example: “Because of you. I believe in you. That’s why I stand here confident that the State of our Union is strong.”

 

Journeys

Finally, as I mentioned last time, there are not as many journey metaphors as one might expect in a State of the Union address. However, there are a few examples worth mentioning. President Obama describes people not moving forward in their lives as being trapped or stuck in the red of debt. He also describes people who want to slam the brakes on change or something that grinds to a halt as if it were a vehicle in motion. Starting a new journey requires opening the door and leaving one’s house. And then one must get on track to continue the journey and keep pace with one’s competitors. Finally, if one is on the right path of their journey, they can get through tough times and reach their destinations and goals.

blog - immigration - Lobster_trapExample: “There are a whole lot of folks in this chamber who would like to see more cooperation, a more elevated debate in Washington, but feel trapped by the demands of getting elected.”

Example: “And we have to make college affordable for every American. Because no hardworking student should be stuck in the red.”

Example: “Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future; who claimed we could slam the brakes on change, promising to restore past glory if we just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control.”

blog - SOTU16 - brakesExample: “Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise; or when even basic facts are contested, and we listen only to those who agree with us.”

Example: “That’s why we restored diplomatic relations, opened the door to travel and commerce, and positioned ourselves to improve the lives of the Cuban people.”

Example: “Right now, we are on track to end the scourge of HIV/AIDS, and we have the capacity to accomplish the same thing with malaria — something I’ll be pushing this Congress to fund this year.”

Example: “And the international system we built after World War II is now struggling to keep pace with this new reality.”

blog - SOTU16 - pathExample: “No nation dares to attack us or our allies because they know that’s the path to ruin.”

Example: “We can’t afford to go down that path.”

Example: “America has been through big changes before — wars and depression, the influx of immigrants, workers fighting for a fair deal, and movements to expand civil rights.”

*******

Cleary, this final State of the Union Address is not a typical forward-looking speech. Instead, we find numerous examples of metaphors describing his frustrations with lack of progress in certain areas of the government while celebrating his successes in his two terms in office. I have certainly enjoyed analyzing President Obama’s speeches the past few years. Please let me know if you have any comments or questions.

Next time: Metaphors of the Iowa Caucuses

blog - SOTU16 - Hand_tools

State of the Union Address 2016, Part 1

President Obama’s State of the Union Speech last week was interesting for several reasons. Most SOTU speeches are filled with metaphors looking forward to better days ahead. Thus there are many journey metaphors such as taking steps, on the right path, going around roadblocks, etc. However, since this was Obama’s final SOTU speech at the end of his two terms, he was talking more about looking back instead of looking forward. Although he does use a few journey metaphors, they are not a primary rhetorical strategy in his speech. He mostly describes the progress he has made in his two terms with metaphors of sports, nature, machines, buildings, physical forces, personification, and journeys. Today I will analyze his use of metaphors in the first four categories listed here. As always, the examples are direct quotations from the transcript of the speech. Italics are mine.

Sports

It is very common to talk about group efforts in terms of sports teams. President Obama uses two sports metaphors to indicate how people are working together to solve problems as in team up, or using a wrestling metaphor to describe making a brave effort to defeat an enemy as in gone to the mat.

Example: “Tonight, I’m announcing a new national effort to get it done. And because he’s gone to the mat for all of us, on so many issues over the past forty years, I’m putting Joe in charge of Mission Control. For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the family we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all.”

blog - SOTU16 - teamExample: “We’re taking steps to give homeowners the freedom to generate and store their own energy — something environmentalists and Tea Partiers have teamed up to support.”

Nature

It is also very common to describe complex problems in terms of natural phenomenon. The origins of a problem are often described as roots of a tree, while the same word root can be used to mean a process similar to a person or animal digging up food from the ground. Intractable problems can also be described as a marsh or quagmire whose muddy ground makes it almost impossible to cross over. Finally a process that is not succeeding may be described as withering, as if it is a dying flower. President Obama uses nature metaphors to describe problems of terrorism and extreme right-wing politics.

Example: “The Middle East is going through a transformation that will play out for a generation, rooted in conflicts that date back millennia.”

blog - SOTU16 - rootsExample: “We just need to call them what they are — killers and fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed.”

Example: “We also can’t try to take over and rebuild every country that falls into crisis. That’s not leadership; that’s a recipe for quagmire, spilling American blood and treasure that ultimately weakens us. It’s the lesson of Vietnam, of Iraq — and we should have learned it by now.”

Example: “Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get attention.”

Buildings

Talking about abstract processes often involved comparing them to buildings. We can talk about building lives or nations, building up terrorist organizations, or rebuilding society. We can also talk about supporting or propping up organizations as if they are buildings that are about to fall down.

Example: “Americans understand that at some point in their careers, they may have to retool and retrain. But they shouldn’t lose what they’ve already worked so hard to build.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Example: “And that’s why the third big question we have to answer is how to keep America safe and strong without either isolating ourselves or trying to nation-build everywhere there’s a problem.”

Example: “That’s the story ISIL wants to tell; that’s the kind of propaganda they use to recruit. We don’t need to build them up to show that we’re serious, nor do we need to push away vital allies in this fight by echoing the lie that ISIL is representative of one of the world’s largest religions.”

Example: “We also can’t try to take over and rebuild every country that falls into crisis.”

Example: “American leadership in the 21st century is not a choice between ignoring the rest of the world — except when we kill terrorists; or occupying and rebuilding whatever society is unraveling.”

Example: “Even as their economy contracts, Russia is pouring resources to prop up Ukraine and Syria — states they see slipping away from their orbit.” 

Machines and Tools

We are all familiar with various types of machines – everything from household appliances to lawnmowers, cars and trucks. We commonly compare abstract processes to everyday machines. We talk about societies breaking down, or the need to shut down a prison. Sometimes we need to get a machine going again, so we can talk about reinventing a part of society, or reigniting our spirit. To get a machine working again we needs tools to fix it, so we may talk about tools to enforce an agreement, laid off workers retooling for a new job, or the government working to fix problems.

Example: “That’s our approach to conflicts like Syria, where we’re partnering with local forces and leading international efforts to help that broken society pursue a lasting peace.” 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Example: “Most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some narrow interest.”

Example: “That is why I will keep working to shut down the prison at Guantanamo: it’s expensive, it’s unnecessary, and it only serves as a recruitment brochure for our enemies.”

Example: “It’s how we reformed our health care system, and reinvented our energy sector;”

Example: “This brings me to the second big question we have to answer as a country: how do we reignite that spirit of innovation to meet our biggest challenges?”

Example: “Americans understand that at some point in their careers, they may have to retool and retrain. But they shouldn’t lose what they’ve already worked so hard to build.”

Example: “Approve this agreement. Give us the tools to enforce it.”

Example: “It will only happen if we fix our politics.”

blog - SOTU16 - Hand_tools

Next Time: SOTU 2016, Part 2

blog - food - slice of pie

Happy Holidays! Metaphors of Eating!

Happy Holidays!

First of all I would like to thank all of my loyal readers and visitors to this blog. This week marks my 3rd anniversary. I am happy to report that I have now had over 200,000 views to date, and I am averaging about 500 views per day during the academic year, some weeks 700 – 800 views per day. I have more than doubled my viewership each of the three years and hope the blog keeps growing. My viewers are high school and college students from all over the world. I am very proud to be helping so many students understand metaphors. Please let me know if you have any questions about the blog or special requests on certain metaphors that you are studying.

Today, as we go into the holidays and begin overeating during Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties, I thought I would share a few metaphors of eating. I have discussed food in several prior posts including spotlights on meat and potatoes,  desserts and drinks, and types of cooking. Today I would like to share metaphors of the simple process of eating.

Eating 

hungry for something

When we have not eaten in several hours we will become hungry for food. In popular terms, one can also be hungry for other things he or she wants in life.

Example: Many Americans are hungry for a new kind of government in which members of Congress work hard to help working class people.

blog - food - Family_eating_mealconsume/consumer

Consume is another word for eat. While we commonly consume food, metaphorically people and machines consume other things such as natural resources and products. A consumer is anyone who buys products in American stores and marketplaces.

Example: American presidents must consider the fact that Americans consume incredible amounts of oil in their cars and buildings.

Example: American consumers greatly influence the state of the economy with their every day purchases.

chew the fat

A piece of meat with fat requires a longer time to chew. The phrase to chew the fat means to talk about something for a long time, usually with the sense that nothing important is said.

Example: During elections, sometimes candidates will go on popular TV talk shows to chew the fat with celebrities and get more exposure to voters.

eating savings

As with the idea of consuming, eating can be used metaphorically to use up a certain resource. For example, high costs of food and gasoline can eat into people’s savings accounts.

Example: Americans spend less money on vacations when everyday expenses eat into their savings and they cannot afford to travel.

eating higher costs

Businesses may also need to pay for rising expenses out of their own budget. This is sometimes referred to as eating higher costs.

Example: Shipping companies may decide to raise their prices instead of eating the higher costs of gasoline for their cars and trucks.

feast on

If people have a great deal of food at a meal, they may feast on all the food. Metaphorically, journalists can feast on scandals and other big news items generated by politicians.

Example: When John McCain surprised everyone by nominating Sarah Palin as his running mate for the 2008 presidential election, the TV news shows feasted on the big news and spent days talking about Governor Palin’s background.

blog - food - Digestive-systemdigest

When we eat food, our bodies digest it with our internal organs. Metaphorically, we can also digest or understand information that we learn from books and TV.

Example: Many Americans do not vote in major elections because they cannot digest all the complex information about the candidates and the issues.

spoon feed

Babies cannot eat food on their own so their parents must feed them. This is sometimes called spoon-feeding babies. In common terms, people can also be spoon-fed information if they do not understand something.

Example: Well-educated voters do not like to be spoon-fed information on important issues; they want to learn the whole story.blog - food - spoon feed

piecemeal

The term piecemeal is an Old English expression meaning the fixed time to eat a meal. However, the term now indicates doing something in small measured steps instead of in one large effort.

Example: President George Bush added troops in Iraq piecemeal instead of sending them there all at once.

piece of the pie

When a large group of people eat a pie for dessert, they must cut the pie into pieces to make sure everyone gets their share. Metaphorically, the pieces of the pie can represent the opportunities available to someone in a social or financial situation.

Example: Every American works hard to get their piece of the pie: a nice car, a nice house and a good family.

blog - food - slice of piesmall slice

Similarly, one part of something can be called a small slice as if it is a pie or a pizza.

Example: Local grocery stores may only be a small slice of the food market, but their lower prices can be very helpful to people on a budget.

 

blog - food - Assorted_forksfork over

Forks are common utensils for eating and serving food. A host at a party may serve a piece of meat by spearing it with a fork and passing it to a person. One might say the person is forking over the food to the person. In metaphorical terms, one can fork over something that he or she is obligated to give to another person, such as a payment for goods or services. In politics, politicians or taxpayers may have to fork over money to pay a certain obligation.

Example: During the 2008 bailout of the failing banks on Wall Street, American taxpayers had to fork over billions of dollars to keep the banks from closing.

fed up with something

When one has had a big meal, we can say that one is well fed. In slang terms, one can be fed up with some problem, meaning the person is no longer tolerant of something.

Example: Many taxpayers say they are fed up with having to pay higher taxes to pay for government’s mistakes.

IMG_1320pick up the tab

When one goes to a restaurant or bar, the amount one has to pay for the food and drink at the end of the evening is called the tab. In popular terms, picking up the tab means to pay the entire bill for a group of people. In politics, people and groups can pick up the tab to pay for government programs or events.

Example: During an election campaign, the political party may pick up the tab for a candidate’s travel expenses.

*******

It is always amazing to me that we create political metaphors simply based on everyday activities. It is perhaps no surprise that we have metaphors based on eating – one of the favorite activities of Americans. I hope you have enjoyed these posts this past year and have learned something along the way. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! See you in 2016!

 

 

 

blog - journey - ahead

1st Democratic Debate, Part 2

Today I continue Part 2 of the analysis of metaphors from the first Democratic debate. Last time I described some of the more unusual conceptual metaphors, this time I will explain a few of the more common metaphors from nature, body position, physical forces and journeys.

As I did last time, the examples are taken directly from the transcript of the debate. The quotations are cited according to the candidates: Hillary Clinton (HC), Bernie Sanders (BS), Martin O’Malley (MO), Jim Webb (JW), or Lincoln Chafee (LC). Some quotations are also from the CNN commentators Anderson Cooper (AC) or Juan Carlos Lopez (JCL). Italics are mine.

Nature

Lincoln Chafee provided the most obvious example of the evening, describing himself as a block of granite, comparing his allegiance to his political party to one of the hardest known rocks on earth. Other metaphors include examples from farming, e.g., sowing the seeds of unrest, or being rooted in values.   The idea of strawman gun purchasers, those who buy firearms for someone who is not legally allowed to do so, is derived from the idea of a scarecrow that is not a real person. The power of nature is also described metaphorically in the phrases of cascading threats and windfall profits, while the inability to make progress in a government programs is compared to a marsh or quagmire, in which one can be bogged down. The inability to control government programs is compared to the power of animals as something that is running amok or a horse that must be reined in.

blog - nature - graniteblock of granite

Example: “Anderson, you’re looking at a block of granite when it comes to the issues. Whether it’s…” (LC)

COOPER: “It seems like pretty soft granite. I mean, you’ve been a Republican, you’ve been an independent.” (AC)

sowing the seeds of unrest

Example: “The current top prosecutor in Baltimore, also a Democrat, blames your zero tolerance policies for sowing the seeds of unrest.” (HC speaking to MO)

rooted in values

Example: “So I have a long history of getting things done, rooted in the same values…” (HC)

A set of scarecrows in a field in Japan
A set of scarecrows in a field in Japan

straw man purchasers

Example: “And I think we’ve got to move aggressively at the federal level in dealing with the straw man purchasers.” (BS)

cascading threats

Example: “I believe that nuclear Iran remains the biggest threat, along with the threat of ISIL; climate change, of course, makes cascading threats even more (inaudible).” (MO)

windfall profits

Example: “And let me just go back a minute and say that on this TARP program, I introduced a piece of legislation calling for a windfall profits tax on the executives of any of these companies that got more than $5 billion, that it was time for them, once they got their compensation and their bonus, to split the rest of the money they made with the nurses and the truck drivers and the soldiers who bailed them out.” (JW)

Soldiers from 25th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, recover a tractor trailer from a mire pit during the Vehicle Recovery Course Sept. 28, 2011, at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. The training is designed to challenge unit mechanics and prepare them for rainy season conditions in Afghanistan. (Courtesy of 125th Stryker Brigade Combat Team) - http://www.flickr.com/photos/soldiersmediacenter/6254338960/
Soldiers from 25th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, recover a tractor trailer from a mire pit during the Vehicle Recovery Course Sept. 28, 2011, at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. The training is designed to challenge unit mechanics and prepare them for rainy season conditions in Afghanistan. (Courtesy of 125th Stryker Brigade Combat Team) – http://www.flickr.com/photos/soldiersmediacenter/6254338960/

quagmire

Example: “Well, let’s understand that when we talk about Syria, you’re talking about a quagmire in a quagmire.” (BS)

bogged down

Example: “But I think when Russians get killed in Syria and when he [Putin] gets bogged down, I think the Russian people are going to give him a message that maybe they should come home, maybe they should start working with the United States to rectify the situation now.” (BS)

 

 

 

rein in/run amok

Example: “We are the United States of America. And it’s our job to rein in the excesses of capitalism so that it doesn’t run amok and doesn’t cause the kind of inequities we’re seeing in our economic system.” (HC)

 

Body Position

            Metaphors based on the human body are very common in politics, especially those comparing actions to positions of the body.   These examples include standing up to bullying or the NRA, still standing instead of falling down in a fight, or standing still instead of running or making progress in an endeavor. We can also say that we won’t back down to a fight. In a different sense of body movement, one can be metaphorically paralyzed if there is no action taking place or have a backbone to do something brave be an essential part of a larger system. On a smaller scale, we can describe important information falling into the wrong hands, or all the wealth held by a handful of billionaires. 

blog - body - standingstand up to his bullying

Example: “There’s no doubt that when Putin came back in and said he was going to be President, that did change the relationship. We have to stand up to his bullying, and specifically in Syria, it is important — and I applaud the administration because they are engaged in talks right now with the Russians to make it clear that they’ve got to be part of the solution to try to end that bloody conflict.” (HC) 

stood up against the NRA

Example: “I think that we have to look at the fact that we lose 90 people a day from gun violence. This has gone on too long and it’s time the entire country stood up against the NRA.” (HC) 

back down

Example: “And we did it by leading with principle, not by pandering to the NRA and backing down to the NRA.” (MO) 

I am still standing

Example: “I am still standing. I am happy to be part of this debate.” (HC) 

standing but not running

Example: “That Great Recession, 9 million people lost their jobs, 5 million lost their homes, $13 trillion in wealth disappeared. And although we’ve made progress, we’re standing but not running the way America needs to.” (HC) 

paralyzed

Example: “We should not be paralyzed — we should not be paralyzed by the Republicans and their constant refrain, “big government this, big government that,” that except for what they want to impose on the American people.” (HC)

blog - body - backbone

 

backbone

Example: “So what we need to do is support small and medium-sized businesses, the backbone of our economy, but we have to make sure that every family in this country gets a fair shake…” (BS) 

handful of billionaires

Example: “What this campaign is about is whether we can mobilize our people to take back our government from a handful of billionaires and create the vibrant democracy we know we can and should have.” (BS)

wrong hands

Example: “I think it has to be continued threat from the spread of nuclear weapons, nuclear material that can fall into the wrong hands. I know the terrorists are constantly seeking it, and that’s why we have to stay vigilant, but also united around the world to prevent that.” (HC)

 

Physical Forces

We can also describe people’s behavior in terms of strong physical forces. Thus we have examples of outside forces tearing or ripping the country apart, while millions of jobs are wiped out and we have crushing debt and a broken criminal justice system. We can also have people turning out for voting, violence exploding and a middle class that is shrinking or collapsing. We can have extreme physical forces such as someone being hit by a train, or railroaded, or someone doing a delicate action such as threading a tough needle.  

IMG_0062tear our country apart

Example: “For there is a — deep injustice, an economic injustice that threatens to tear our country apart, and it will not solve itself. Injustice does not solve itself.” (MO)

rip it apart

Example: “We have to prevent the Republicans from ripping it [the Dodd-Frank bill] apart.” (HC)

wiped out millions of jobs

Example: “Secretary Clinton mentioned my support eight years ago. And Secretary, I was proud to support you eight years ago, but something happened in between, and that is, Anderson, a Wall Street crash that wiped out millions of jobs and millions of savings for families.” (MO)

crushing debt

Example: “Our economy isn’t money, it’s people. It’s all of our people, and so we must invest in our country, and the potential of our kids to make college a debt free option for all of our families, instead of settling our kids with a lifetime of crushing debt.”(MO)

broken criminal justice system

Example: “We need to combat institutional racism from top to bottom, and we need major, major reforms in a broken criminal justice system…” (BS) 

turnouts

Example: “We are bringing out huge turnouts, and creating excitement all over this country.” (BS)

exploded in violence

Example: “Governor O’Malley, the concern of voters about you is that you tout our record as Baltimore’s mayor. As we all know, we all saw it. That city exploded in riots and violence in April.” (AC)

middle class is shrinking

Example: “What I’m talking about is this, our middle class is shrinking. Our poor families are becoming poorer, and 70 percent of us are earning the same, or less than we were 12 years ago.” (MO)

The I-35 bridge collapse in Minneapolis in August 2007
The I-35 bridge collapse in Minneapolis in August 2007

middle class is collapsing

Example: “The middle class — Anderson, and let me say something about the media, as well. I go around the country, talk to a whole lot of people. Middle class in this country is collapsing.” (BS)

railroaded

Example: “But the reason why people remain angry about it is because people feel like a lot of our legislators got railroaded in a war fever and by polls.” (MO)

thread a tough needle

Example: “I think the president is trying very hard to thread a tough needle here, and that is to support those people who are against Assad, against ISIS, without getting us on the ground there…” (BS)

blog - phys forces - needle

Journey

Finally, we had several examples of journey metaphors in the debate that are common in political speeches. Metaphorical journeys are often compared to walking or taking steps. People making progress in an endeavor are compared to soldiers marching together so that a person not being a part of the group is considered out of step.   Others taking the lead in a situation are described as taking a step forward. The first step may require walking out of one’s house, so starting a new journey may be described as standing on the threshold. While beginning a journey may be described as taking the right route as in being a path to citizenship.

Movement forward is always desired while going backwards or having reversals is deemed counterproductive. Going backwards may also be compared to a car turning the state around. Controlling a situation is compared to driving a car while taking a back seat indicates not being in control or in the lead of a movement. We can also put forward specific plans, move forward, or move our country forward while making progress is compared to leading in a car race, being behind instead of ahead or getting ahead and staying ahead. 

out of step

Example: “Given that nearly half the Democratic Party is non-white, aren’t you out of step with where the Democratic Party is now?” (AC to JW) 

want to step forward

Example: “That distress of communities, where communities don’t want to step forward and say who killed a 3-year-old, it’s a direct result of these failed policies.” (AC) 

blog - journey - thresholdstand on the threshold

Example: “I truly believe that we are standing on the threshold of a new era of American progress.” (MO)

path toward citizenship

Example: “My view right now — and always has been — is that when you have 11 million undocumented people in this country, we need comprehensive immigration reform, we need a path toward citizenship, we need to take people out of the shadows.” (BS)

reversals

Example: “…right before this debate, Secretary Clinton’s campaign put out a lot of reversals on positions on Keystone and many other things. But one of them that we still have a great difference on, Madam Secretary, is that you are not for Glass-Steagall.” (AC) 

turn the state around

Example: “I know how to turn around a state because I did as governor of Rhode Island.” (LC)

blog - journey - back seatback seat

Example: “And I don’t take a back seat to anyone when it comes to progressive experience and progressive commitment.” (HC) 

put forward specific plans

Example: “I’ve traveled across our country over the last months listening and learning, and I’ve put forward specific plans about how we’re going to create more good-paying jobs: by investing in infrastructure and clean energy, by making it possible once again to invest in science and research, and taking the opportunity posed by climate change to grow our economy.” (HC)

go forward

Example: “And if you think — if you think that we can simply go forward and pass something tomorrow without bringing people together, you are sorely mistaken.” (BS)

move our country forward

Example: “What you heard instead on this stage tonight was an honest search for the answers that will move our country forward, to move us to a 100 percent clean electric energy grid by 2050, to take the actions that we have always taken as Americans so that we can actually attack injustice in our country, employ more of our people, rebuild our cities and towns, educate our children at higher and better levels, and include more of our people in the economic, social, and political life of our country.” (MO)

blog - journey - aheadbehind instead of ahead

Example: “But I know, if we don’t come in with a very tough and comprehensive approach, like the plan I’m recommending, we’re going to be behind instead of ahead…” (HC)

get ahead and stay ahead

Example: “My mission as president will be to raise incomes for hard-working middle-class families and to make sure that we get back to the basic bargain I was raised with: If you work hard and you do your part, you should be able to get ahead and stay ahead.” (HC)

 

*******

In sum, this Democratic debate provided some very rich examples of common political metaphors.  These examples illustrate once more how ubiquitous conceptual metaphors are in American politics.

Next time:  TBA

blog - military - shields

1st Democratic Debate: Part 1

The first Democratic debate was held two weeks ago. It already feels like ancient history since two of the candidates, Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee, have since dropped out of the race. Nonetheless, after wading through 55 pages of the transcript and sifting through dozens of metaphors, I can offer a few analyses here today. However, there are so many metaphors, I will have to split the descriptions into two different blog posts. Today I will describe some of the more unusual metaphors, and next time, I will analyze some interesting examples of more common metaphors. The conceptual metaphors today are based on experiences with education, furniture, light and darkness, magic, card games, the military, width and personification.

As always, the examples are taken directly from the transcript of the debate. The quotations are cited according to the candidates: Hillary Clinton (HC), Bernie Sanders (BS), Martin O’Malley (MO), Jim Webb (JW), or Lincoln Chafee (LC). Some quotations are also from the CNN commentators Anderson Cooper (AC) or Juan Carlos Lopez (JCL). Italics are mine.

 

Education

Almost everyone in the United States is lucky enough to attend school. We all study English, math, social studies and many other subjects with countless lessons carefully crafted by hardworking teachers. Not surprisingly, we have a few conceptual metaphors based on our experiences in educational settings. In the debate, we saw a few examples from lessons, grading, homework, math formulas and multiple-choice answers such as all of the above.

grades from the NRA

Example: “… as somebody who has a D-minus voting record [from the NRA]…” (BS)

Example: “And I have an F from the NRA, Senator.” (MO)

Urval av de böcker som har vunnit Nordiska rådets litteraturpris under de 50 år som priset funnits

powerful lesson/lessons from Benghazi

Example: “I’m the former chairman of the Senate Veterans Committee, and in that capacity I learned a very powerful lesson about the cost of war, and I will do everything that I can to make sure that the United States does not get involved in another quagmire like we did in Iraq…” (BS)

I did my homework

Example: “…if you’re looking ahead, and you’re looking at someone who made that poor decision in 2002 to go into Iraq when there was no real evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq — I know because I did my homework, and, so, that’s an indication of how someone will perform in the future. And that’s what’s important.” (LC)

blog - education - Quadratic_Formulaformula

Example: “And the third [strategic failing of the U.S. government] was the recent deal allowing Iran to move forward and eventually acquire a nuclear weapon, which sent bad signals, bad body language into the region about whether we are acquiescing in Iran becoming a stronger piece of the formula in that part of the world.” (JW)

all-of-the-above strategies/energy

Example: “We did not land a man on the moon with an all-of-the-above strategy. It was an intentional engineering challenge, and we solved it as a nation. And our nation must solve this one.” (MO)

Example: “And when I was in the Senate, I was an all-of-the-above energy voter. We introduced legislation to bring in alternate energy as well as nuclear power.” (JW)

 

Light and Darkness

            A common set of contrasting metaphors is the difference between light and darkness. We are all familiar with the tremendous contrast between daylight and nighttime. Normally, daylight is equated with goodness, while darkness is associated with evil. Similarly, anything described as being in the shadows is considered to be criminal or corrupt. We even have the word shady indicating something that is not legal. Several candidates mentioned metaphors of shadows. 

political shadows

Example: “I brought criminal justice reform out of the political shadows and into the national discussion.” (HC)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

shadow banking

Example: “But we also have to worry about some of the other players — AIG, a big insurance company; Lehman Brothers, an investment bank. There’s this whole area called ‘shadow banking.’ That’s where the experts tell me the next potential problem could come from.” (HC)

take people out of the shadows

Example: “My view right now — and always has been — is that when you have 11 million undocumented people in this country, we need comprehensive immigration reform, we need a path toward citizenship, we need to take people out of the shadows.” (BS)

stark contrast

Example: “I think what you did see is that, in this debate, we tried to deal with some of the very tough issues facing our country. That’s in stark contrast to the Republicans who are currently running for president.” (HC)

 

Magic

            The debates revealed a couple examples of metaphors derived from our perceptions of reality. A magician is a person who tricks the audience into believing something that is not true. In politics, a presidential candidate must be perceived as a person who lives in reality and gets things done for the American people.   In another more common example, we can talk of objects disappearing from view, such as when the sun sets and goes out of our perception. In one case, a candidate talks about the middle class disappearing as if it is literally disappearing from our human perceptions.

blog - supernatural - magicianmagician

Example: “Thanks to President Obama, our country has come a long way since the Wall Street crash of 2008. Our country’s doing better, we are creating jobs again. But we elected a president, not a magician, and there is urgent work that needs to be done right now.” (MO)

disappearing

Example: “Are we better off today than we were then? Absolutely. But the truth is that for the 40 years, the great middle class of this country has been disappearing.” (BS)

 

Card games

Politics is often compared to card games or casino games in which money can be betted and lost. Money bet in these games are called stakes. Metaphorically, we can speak of important matters being at stake in an election. In some cases, a dishonest dealer can prearrange the cards in a way that will help a certain person win the game. This is known as stacking the deck. In politics, critics of government bureaucracy may claim that the rules are prearranged to favor certain powerful people or interest groups. One candidate n the debate that she wanted to un-stack the deck and make the government more fair for ordinary people. Finally, a normal deck of playing cards has 52 cards in four suits: clubs, spades, hearts and diamonds. In some games, a player must put down a card on his or her turn that matches the suit of the previous card. This is called following suit. Metaphorically, one can follow suit by doing the same thing that a previous person has done. In politics, a president may follow suit with a certain program or policy that was already in place when he or she became president.

at stake

Example: “The planet — the future of the planet is at stake.” (BS)

blog - cards - Royal_Flushun-stack the deck

Example: “You know, when I left law school, my first job was with the Children’s Defense Fund, and for all the years since, I have been focused on how we’re going to un-stack the deck, and how we’re going to make it possible for more people to have the experience I had.” (HC)

follow suit

Example: “Jim [Webb] and I, under Jim’s leadership, as he indicated, passed the most significant veterans education bill in recent history. We followed suit with a few years later passing, under my leadership, the most significant veterans’ health care legislation in the modern history of this country.” (BS)

 

Military 

The land where battles are fought between two armies is called the common ground. In an argument, the points on which both sides can agree may also be called the common ground.

An army that tries to hold a position will need to stand their ground. Also, for hundreds of years, the main weapon in a war was the sword, and the swordfighter protecting himself by holding a shield to ward off blows from opponents. In common terms, the term shield is used metaphorically to indicate something used to protect someone from a literal or abstract attack.

common ground/stand my ground

Example: “I’m a progressive. But I’m a progressive who likes to get things done. And I know how to find common ground, and I know how to stand my ground, and I have proved that in every position that I’ve had, even dealing with Republicans who never had a good word to say about me, honestly.” (HC)

blog - military - shieldsshield the gun companies

Example: “For a decade, you [Bernie Sanders]said that holding gun manufacturers legally responsible for mass shootings is a bad idea. Now, you say you’re reconsidering that. Which is it: shield the gun companies from lawsuits or not?” (AC)

 

Width

Another way in which we create conceptual metaphors is to describe something abstract as if it were a concrete, real object. In some cases, we describe an abstract difference between two entities as being a gap or divide, as if it were a physical space between objects. Thus we have examples such as closing the gap between the rich and poor, or healing the divides in the United States.

close the gap/the gap between rich and poor

Example: “You’ve (BS) argued that the gap between rich and poor is wider than at any time since the 1920s.” (AC)

heal the divides

Example: “And I will do everything I can to heal the divides — the divides economically, because there’s too much inequality; the racial divides; the continuing discrimination against the LGBT community — so that we work together and, yes, finally, fathers will be able to say to their daughters, you, too, can grow up to be president.” (HC)

 

Personification

            A very common form of metaphor is personification which occurs when an abstract object is described as a person. In the debates we heard that ads can write themselves and capitalism must be saved from itself.   We also heard that a political party can act as a person and leave someone, instead of the person leaving the party. Finally, we have an unusual example of a personification and religious metaphor, with the phrase of a politician not keeping a promise to a certain group of people, referred to as leaving them at the altar, as if they promised to marry someone and failed to show up to the wedding.

the ad writes itself

Example: “You (BS) — the — the Republican attack ad against you in a general election — it writes itself. You supported the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. You honeymooned in the Soviet Union. And just this weekend, you said you’re not a capitalist. Doesn’t — doesn’t that ad write itself?” (AC)

save capitalism from itself

Example: “And I don’t think we should confuse what we have to do every so often in America, which is save capitalism from itself.” (HC)

the party left me

Example: “The [Republican] party left me. There’s no doubt about that. There was no room for a liberal moderate Republican in that party.” (LC)

blog - religion - altarleft them at the altar

Example: “Senator Sanders, in 2013, you voted for immigration reform. But in 2007, when Democrats controlled Congress and the Bush White House was onboard, you voted against it. Why should Latino voters trust you now when you left them at the altar at the moment when reform was very close?” (JCL)

Example: “I didn’t leave anybody at the altar.” (BS)

*******

This odd collection of conceptual metaphors illustrates the great breadth of sources of metaphors. Everything from card games to shadows to multiple-choice questions on tests. Who would believe it if it weren’t true?

Next time: More metaphors from the Democratic debate.

 

2014 Pastoral Visit of Pope Francis to Korea

Pope Francis and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Pope Francis made a historic visit to the United States last week. His tremendous popularity around the world led to huge crowds of admirers wherever he went. Although he is primarily a religious leader, I believe his speeches are worthy of consideration in this blog for several reasons: 1) Politically, he made several powerful speeches concerned with American political, economic and environmental issues; 2) Culturally, he drew crowds unheard of for a religious leader or politician. No one has drawn such huge crowds since Barack Obama first ran for president in 2007 and 2008. 3) Historically, one is tempted to compare the speeches of Pope Francis to those of Martin Luther King, Jr. The pope actually refers to one MLK speech in his own speeches but it is doubtful if the pope has the rhetorical firepower that Martin Luther King demonstrated in the 1960s. 4) Linguistically, Pope Francis speaks several different languages but English is not is first language. I was very curious to see if his speeches contained the usual amount or type of conceptual metaphors that a native English speaker would use.

 

2014 Pastoral Visit of Pope Francis to Korea
2014 Pastoral Visit of Pope Francis to Korea

I have analyzed three of the Pope’s speeches – his remarks at the White House (henceforth referred to as WH), the speech he gave to a joint meeting of Congress (CG) and his talk at the United Nations (UN). As many people must have noticed, Pope Francis often referred to his previous writing, the Laudato Si, an encyclical he wrote and presented in April of this year. (An encyclical is a very lengthy article on a specific topic written by the pope and published by the Vatican. This year’s topic was on climate change.   The name Laudato Si’ is a shortened form of a line from a poem Saint Francis of Assisi, “Laudato Si”, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”.) Although it is not a speech, the Laudato Si’ contains many of the original language used in the speeches, so I will refer to it on occasion here as well. It is a thesis-length article (more than 37,000 words!) with more than two hundred separate issues discussed. The pope refers to some of these points by number in his own speeches.

 

Given that English is not the Pope’s first language, I was not surprised that I did not find a great deal of metaphor usage in his speeches. However, he used several interesting categories of metaphors that illustrate the ubiquity of many of our conceptual metaphors. Specifically, he used metaphors of family, homes, buildings and journeys. As usual, all the examples provided here are from the speeches and writings of the pope. Italics are mine. Some examples are repeated if they contain more than one type of metaphor.

Family

One common conceptual metaphor is to describe people who are not blood relations as brothers, sisters, fathers or mothers. Pope Francis used these metaphors extensively in his speeches. This is not too surprising since these metaphors are commonly used in Catholic naming of various roles within the church. Catholic nuns are referred to as Sisters, monks as Brothers, a head nun as Mother Superior, and priests as Fathers. Pope Francis extends these metaphors to other members of the church or different people around the world. He also uses the family members of sons and daughters to describe citizens of certain countries.

Example: “During my visit I will have the honor of addressing Congress, where I hope, as a brother of this country, to offer words of encouragement to those called to guide the nation’s political future in fidelity to its founding principles.” (WH)

blog - family - photoExample: “That freedom [religious liberty] remains one of America’s most precious possessions. And, as my brothers, the United States Bishops, have reminded us, all are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.” (WH)

Example: “I would like all men and women of good will in this great nation to support the efforts of the international community to protect the vulnerable in our world and to stimulate integral and inclusive models of development, so that our brothers and sisters everywhere may know the blessings of peace and prosperity which God wills for all his children.” (WH)

Example: “I am most grateful for your invitation to address this Joint Session of Congress in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”. I would like to think that the reason for this is that I too am a son of this great continent, from which we have all received so much and toward which we share a common responsibility. Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility.” (CG)

Example: “The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps.” (CG)

Example: “Three sons and a daughter of this land, four individuals and four dreams: Lincoln, liberty; Martin Luther King, liberty in plurality and non-exclusion; Dorothy Day, social justice and the rights of persons; and Thomas Merton, the capacity for dialogue and openness to God.” (CG)

Home and Community

The word normally refers to the physical residence or location of a person or family. In the Laudato Si’, Pope Francis often refers to the earth metaphorically as our common home as if we all live in the same place. He repeats these metaphors quite often in his speeches. In one instance, he extends the metaphor of a common home to that of a community.

Example: “When it comes to the care of our ‘common home,’ we are living at a critical moment of history. We still have time to make the changes needed to bring about ‘a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change’ (Laudato Si’, 13).” (WH)

Example: “Our common home has been part of this group of the excluded which cries out to heaven and which today powerfully strikes our homes, our cities and our societies.” (WH)

blog - personification - homeExample: “The common home of all men and women must continue to rise on the foundations of a right understanding of universal fraternity and respect for the sacredness of every human life, of every man and every woman, the poor, the elderly, children, the infirm, the unborn, the unemployed, the abandoned, those considered disposable because they are only considered as part of a statistic. This common home of all men and women must also be built on the understanding of a certain sacredness of created nature.” (UN)

Example: “The United Nations is presently celebrating its seventieth anniversary. The history of this organized community of states is one of important common achievements over a period of unusually fast- paced changes.” (UN)

 

Buildings

Another common metaphor used by Pope Francis was that of building societies and communities as if they are physical structures. Thus we see metaphorical references to buildings, foundations, structures and pillars.

Example: “As the son of an immigrant family, I am happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families.” (WH)

Example: “Mr. President, together with their fellow citizens, American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination.” (WH)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAExample: “Here, together with their representatives, I would like to take this opportunity to dialogue with the many thousands of men and women who strive each day to do an honest day’s work, to bring home their daily bread, to save money and –one step at a time – to build a better life for their families.” (CG)

Example: “The complexities of history and the reality of human weakness notwithstanding, these men and women, for all their many differences and limitations, were able by hard work and self-sacrifice – some at the cost of their lives – to build a better future.” (CG)

Example: “Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity.” (CG)

Example: “Even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent.” (CG)

Example: “In this land, the various religious denominations have greatly contributed to building and strengthening society.” (CG)

Example: “How essential the family has been to the building of this country! And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement!” (CG)

blog - SOTU 15 - pillars ParthenonExample: “For all this, the simplest and best measure and indicator of the implementation of the new Agenda for development will be effective, practical and immediate access, on the part of all, to essential material and spiritual goods: housing, dignified and properly remunerated employment, adequate food and drinking water; religious freedom and, more generally, spiritual freedom and education. These pillars of integral human development have a common foundation, which is the right to life and, more generally, what we could call the right to existence of human nature itself.” (UN)

Example: “The common home of all men and women must continue to rise on the foundations of a right understanding of universal fraternity and respect for the sacredness of every human life, of every man and every woman, the poor, the elderly, children, the infirm, the unborn, the unemployed, the abandoned, those considered disposable because they are only considered as part of a statistic. This common home of all men and women must also be built on the understanding of a certain sacredness of created nature.” (UN)

Example: “The contemporary world, so apparently connected, is experiencing a growing and steady social fragmentation, which places at risk ‘the foundations of social life’ and consequently leads to ‘battles over conflicting interests’ (Laudato Si’, 229).” (UN)

Journeys

Journey metaphors are among the most commonly used tropes in political rhetoric. A speaker will often compare the attempts at making progress on a certain political or social issue as people going on a journey. Thus we can see examples of people opening doors to start a journey, taking steps along the way, or moving forward along a path.   People can also get lost on their journeys or be led astray by making wrong choices.  Other people can be trapped where they are or stuck in a maze and not be able to make the journey they need to go on.

blog - pathExample: “The efforts which were recently made to mend broken relationships and to open new doors to cooperation within our human family represent positive steps along the path of reconciliation, justice and freedom.” (WH)

Example: “I also want to dialogue with all those young people who are working to realize their great and noble aspirations, who are not led astray by facile proposals, and who face difficult situations, often as a result of immaturity on the part of many adults.” (CG)

Example: “We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.” (CG)

Example: “At the same time I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty.” (CG)

Example: “In Laudato Si’, I call for a courageous and responsible effort to ‘redirect our steps’ (ibid., 61), and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity.” (CG)

Example: “When countries which have been at odds resume the path of dialogue – a dialogue which may have been interrupted for the most legitimate of reasons – new opportunities open up for all.” (CG)

blog - journey - mazeExample: “In particular, I would like to call attention to those family members who are the most vulnerable, the young. For many of them, a future filled with countless possibilities beckons, yet so many others seem disoriented and aimless, trapped in a hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair. Their problems are our problems. We cannot avoid them.” (CG)

blog - journey - footstepsExample: “This is the fifth time that a Pope has visited the United Nations. I follow in the footsteps of my predecessors Paul VI, in 1965, John Paul II, in 1979 and 1995, and my most recent predecessor, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in 2008.” (UN)

Example: “Our world demands of all government leaders a will which is effective, practical and constant, concrete steps and immediate measures for preserving and improving the natural environment and thus putting an end as quickly as possible to the phenomenon of social and economic exclusion, with its baneful consequences: human trafficking, the marketing of human organs and tissues, the sexual exploitation of boys and girls, slave labor, including prostitution, the drug and weapons trade, terrorism and international organized crime.” (UN)

Echoes of Martin Luther King, Jr.

As a final note, Pope Francis refers to the speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. at several points in his own speeches. He directly quotes MLK’s use of the metaphor of the promissory note that he used in the “I Have a Dream” speech. He also comments extensively on MLK’s use of the idea of pursuing a dream to make life better for citizens of the world.

blog - business - promissory noteExample: “Our common home has been part of this group of the excluded which cries out to heaven and which today powerfully strikes our homes, our cities and our societies. To use a telling phrase of the Reverend Martin Luther King, we can say that we have defaulted on a promissory note and now is the time to honor it.” (WH)

Example: “Here too I think of the march which Martin Luther King led from Selma to Montgomery fifty years ago as part of the campaign to fulfill his ‘dream’ of full civil and political rights for African-Americans. That dream continues to inspire us all. I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of ‘dreams.’ Dreams which lead to action, to participation, to commitment. Dreams which awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people.” (CG)

Example: “Three sons and a daughter of this land, four individuals and four dreams: Lincoln, liberty; Martin Luther King, liberty in plurality and non-exclusion; Dorothy Day, social justice and the rights of persons; and Thomas Merton, the capacity for dialogue and openness to God.” (CG)

Example: “A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to ‘dream’ of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton. “(CG)

*******

Although Pope Francis clearly does not have the oratorical style or rhetorical power of Martin Luther King, Jr., his ability to draw huge crowds of people indicates he is reaching millions of people with his messages. His popularity is perhaps partially due to his lack of partisan politics or hidden agendas. His piety and world-wide respect allow him to comment on political and social issues with great gravitas. Time will tell if American politicians and citizens will truly help the dreams of Pope Francis to become reality.

Next time: More metaphors of containers.

blog - business - punch the clock

Labor Day Metaphors

In honor of Labor Day this year, I thought I would share a few metaphors from business, commerce, buying, selling and working. Some of these examples I have shared in previous posts, but they are worth mentioning again here. As I have explained many times in this space, we derive conceptual metaphors from an incredible variety of human experiences. Not surprisingly, since everyone has to have a job to pay his or her bills, we can all relate to metaphors of work. Here a few key examples.

 

product

Products are anything produced by a company in a factory such as cars, brooms, computers, etc. People can also be products of the educational or political systems in which they were trained.

Example: In 2008, critics of Barack Obama complained that he was a product of corrupt Chicago politics.

blog - work - hula hoopnovelty candidate

                  A novelty is a product that is made and sold as something new and unusual that hopefully everyone will want to buy. These are usually toys such as hula-hoops or pet rocks. In real terms, the word novelty usually implies that the product is not very serious or useful. In politics, a novelty candidate is someone new to politics, has new ideas, but is not taken seriously by mainstream media or politicians.

Example:   As the first woman candidate for president in many years, Hillary Clinton tried to avoid the label of the novelty candidate.

manufacture

                  Another word for making something is to manufacture it, as in a product from a factory. In metaphorical terms, someone can manufacture an idea, a problem or a reaction to something.

Example:   Sometimes politicians manufacture fear about some social problem so that the public will support them to spend money on solving the problem. 

trademark

In business, a trademark is a legal licensing of a certain name or picture that no one else can use. In politics, a trademark is something that it associated with a specific person.

Example:   John McCain showed his trademark honesty and straightforward talk in the 2008 presidential election. 

The First Bank of Hope, Arkansas
The First Bank of Hope, Arkansas

sell

                  In business, the goal is to sell as many products as possible so that the company can make the most money. In politics, people can also sell ideas, policies or programs.

Example:   In 2009, Barack Obama had to sell the idea of using taxpayer money to rescue the banks from financial collapse. 

sell out

In business, to sell out of something means to sell the entire amount of products that the company had. This is a good thing for the company since they will make more money. However, there is another meaning of selling out that means giving up all of your ideas or values for another cause, usually money. In entertainment or politics, selling out is a bad thing to do, and the person will lose a great deal of respect.

Example:   If the governor of a state promises to lower taxes for small businesses then raises them instead, he will be accused of selling out.

tough sell

A product that is difficult to sell is called a tough sell. An expensive house or car, for example, would be tough sell for most people. In politics, a tough sell is an idea or program that not many people will like but a politician will try to sell it anyway.

Example:   During the Great Depression in the 1930s it was a tough sell for President Roosevelt to convince Congress to borrow money to create more jobs.

peddling

Peddling is another word for selling something, usually meaning that someone is going door-to-door or traveling to see the products. In politics, people can peddle ideas, programs, policies, or influence to do something for someone else.

Example:   Washington D.C. lobbyists who try to get members of Congress to spend money for their companies are often called influence peddlers.

Example:   In is first term, George W. Bush was peddling the idea of privatizing social security but the members of Congress were not buying. His ideas were not accepted.

blog - work - Snake-oilsnake oil salesmen

In the 1800s, before there were many doctors in small towns or federal regulations on medicine, anyone could sell anything and call it medicine. In China, people use to sell a type of snake oil as a pain reliever, although some people claim it did not help. Later, people called any type of fake medicine snake oil because they had no medicinal value. In popular terms, a snake oil salesman is someone who is trying to sell something that will not work or has no value.

Example:   People will not vote for a political candidate with wild new ideas if they think he is just a snake oil salesman.

with bells on

In the eastern United States in the 1800s, some peddlers traveled by horseback to sell their products. In some cases, they put bells on their horses so that the local people would know that they were coming. In modern terms, to do something with bells on means to do it with enthusiasm and complete support.

Example:   In the 2008 presidential election, people came out to vote for Barack Obama with bells on. He won with 53% of the vote while John McCain earned 46% of the vote.

The famous fishmongers at Seattle's Pike Place Market
The famous fishmongers at Seattle’s Pike Place Market

warmonger

Monger is an old word for a peddler or salesman. For example, a fishmonger is a fish salesman. The word monger used as a verb means to sell something. In politics, someone who supports wars or tries to sell the idea of going to war with another country is a warmonger.

Example:   During World War II, Adolf Hitler was the ultimate warmonger since he tried to take over the world with wars of aggression.

fearmonger

                  A person who tries to scare the American public without evidence of real danger is sometimes called a fearmonger.

Example:   After the 9/11 attacks, everyone became afraid of terrorists. There was no need for fearmongering politicians. It was a real attack. 

cost /cost votes

We say that everything costs money to buy. In metaphorical terms, things can have more than a monetary cost, e.g., we can say that “the car accident cost him his life.” In political terms, an action by a politician or political party can have a cost in terms of votes in an election.

Example:   Some say that John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as vice president nominee was the best idea he ever had; others say that it cost him the election.

afford

To be able to afford something means that one has enough money to buy something. As with the word cost, the word afford can have other meanings besides money. Usually used in a negative sense, the phrase cannot afford something means that the person or group will be worse off with a negative result if some action is not taken.

Example:   Teachers say that we cannot afford to cut funding for education even if it costs a lot of money.

Example:   A president cannot afford to look weak when dealing with terrorists. He or she must be firm and use military action if necessary.

blog - business - punch the clockpunching the clock

In many factories, workers must mark the time that they arrive for work by sticking a card into a machine that punches or stamps the time directly on the card. This process is usually called punching the clock. In metaphorical terms, punching the clock means one is ready to begin or end something.

Example:   Critics of the War in Iraq claimed that the Bush administration already had the clock punched for invading Iraq when the terrorists attacked New York in 2001.

stamp

During government or business transactions, the final decision is often printed on the documents with a rubber stamp filled with ink. The stamp may be used to officially record the date, or status of a transaction. In popular terms, to stamp something means to label it with the views of a particular person, group or political party.

Example:   Ronald Reagan put his stamp on economic policies by cutting taxes on businesses.

rubber stamp

In popular terms, to rubber stamp something means to officially approve something without thinking of or fighting for alternatives.

Example:   A good president does not rubber stamp every spending bill that comes in the oval office. He or she must consider the results of each bill carefully and consider every alternative. 

by all accounts

Every business must keep track of the money they spend and the money they earn. These records of money transaction are called accounts. One can tell how a business is doing by looking at all of their accounts. We also use the phrase by all accounts to indicate that the situation has been well researched.

Example:   By all accounts, Herbert Hoover was a very nice man, but he was not a good president.

signature move

                  After all transactions are complete in business or government, the people involved must sign their names on the document to make it official. Each person’s signature is unique and very important to their identity. In politics, business and entertainment, famous people are said to have signature moves, i.e., something that they often do that is unique to them.

Example:   During his presidency, Ronald Reagan’s signature move was to cut taxes on corporations so that they could get more profits and hire more workers.

blog - business - revolving doorrevolving door

Many large business and government office buildings in big cities have revolving doors at the front entrance. A revolving door is never completely open or closed but constantly alternates between the two so that people can go in and out at the same time. In politics, a revolving door policy occurs when staff members are hired from a certain pool of people, especially when leaders of companies are hired to work for the government, or when former government officials work as lobbyists for the departments they used to regulate.

Example:   During his tenure as president, George W. Bush was criticized for having a revolving door in his administration especially when industry leaders were hired as government regulators.

water cooler topic

Most offices have a water cooler from which the employees can get a drink of cold water. Normally, the water cooler is a popular place for people to meet and have conversations about what is going on in their office or in the world. A water cooler topic is something exciting that happened recently and everyone is talking about.

Example:   In 2015, when Hillary Clinton had a second chance of becoming the first female president, her candidacy was the water cooler topic for many months.

*******

By the way, without getting too political myself, allow me to add the following comment: if you have part or all of this Labor Day weekend off from work, you can probably thank a union. Despite the rantings and ravings of some presidential candidates against unions, historically unions have made our workplaces much more safe, secure, and well paid. I am a proud member of the teachers’ union at our college. Here is a list I have seen recently to remind us of our debt of gratitude to our union brothers and sisters across the United States.

36 Reasons Why You Should Thank a Union

  1. Weekends
  2. All Breaks at Work, including your Lunch Breaks
  3. Paid Vacation
  4. FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act)
  5. Sick Leave
  6. Social Security
  7. Minimum Wage
  8. Civil Rights Act/Title VII (Prohibits Employer Discrimination)
  9. 8-Hour Work Day
  10. Overtime Pay
  11. Child Labor Laws
  12. Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA)
  13. 40 Hour Work Week
  14. Worker’s Compensation (Worker’s Comp)
  15. Unemployment Insurance
  16. Pensions
  17. Workplace Safety Standards and Regulations
  18. Employer Health Care Insurance
  19. Collective Bargaining Rights for Employees
  20. Wrongful Termination Laws
  21. Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
  22. Whistleblower Protection Laws
  23. Employee Polygraph Protect Act (Prohibits Employer from using a lie detector test on an employee)
  24. Veteran’s Employment and Training Services (VETS)
  25. Compensation increases and Evaluations (Raises)
  26. Sexual Harassment Laws
  27. Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
  28. Holiday Pay
  29. Employer Dental, Life, and Vision Insurance
  30. Privacy Rights
  31. Pregnancy and Parental Leave
  32. Military Leave
  33. The Right to Strike
  34. Public Education for Children
  35. Equal Pay Acts of 1963 & 2011 (Requires employers pay men and women equally for the same amount of work)
  36. Laws Ending Sweatshops in the United States

Source: https://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/05/16/1092027/-Thanks-a-Union-36-Ways-Unions-Have-Improved-Your-Life?detail=emailclassic

Have a great weekend!

blog - trump - bball hoop outdoors

Donald Trump: Streetball Rhetoric

Dear readers,

My apologies for the long delay since my last post. I have been swamped with work and family obligations the past few weeks. One of the work projects I have been involved in was being on the selection committee to hire not one, but two, deans at my college. I spent many, many hours in the evenings and weekends reading the files of the job candidates – the time I normally spend working on this blog. I mention this only because I was quite amused to observe that the metaphors we use to describe a hiring process are the same that we use to describe an election process.

blog - nature - Corn_field
A field of candidates?

We used metaphors of nature to talk about the group of candidates who applied for the positions: we had a large field of candidates that we narrowed down to a small pool of hopeful administrators. We also used personification to talk about the qualities of the candidates: we talked invited many strong candidates to the interview process, while we had to eliminate several other weak candidates.

 

blog - personification - strength 2
A strong candidate?

Then we used boxing metaphors to describe how we arranged the interviews: we had many candidates in the first round of interviews, and then only a few candidates were invited to the second round. Finally, we used metaphors of spatial prepositions to talk about the expected results of the hiring process (still not finalized as I write this): we were excited about the outcome of the hiring process, but it was up to the college president to make the final decision. And now we are getting down to the wire, because the new deans are supposed to be in place at the beginning of our fall quarter only a few weeks away… I am always amazed how commonly we use metaphors to describe everyday actions.

Anyway, back to the blog…

Readers of this blog will know that I have been analyzing the metaphors used in recent announcements of candidates in the 2016 presidential election. Some candidates have used many colorful metaphors such as Rand Paul and Hilary Clinton. Most other candidates have used fairly direct rhetorical styles with few metaphors.

Donald Trump has earned a great deal of notoriety in the past few weeks by being blunt and critical of President Obama, other presidential candidates, other countries and certain ethnic groups. Most liberals and even other Republican candidates have condemned his comments while some conservatives have applauded his candid remarks. In fact, he has surged to the top of the Republican polls. Pundits on TV news shows have claimed that Donald Trump appeals to conservative voters who are frustrated at government gridlock, trade imbalances and foreign policy actions by President Obama.

It has been a mystery to me how a candidate who has alienated so many Americans can be leading in the polls. He dominated the recent Republican debate, and has just appeared on the cover of the most recent Time magazine. I wondered if there was anything in the rhetoric of Donald Trump’s speeches that would attract conservative voters. I was surprised to find a rhetorical style with unusual metaphor usages that would definitely attract some voters.

blog - trump - bball hoop outdoorsI found that Trump speaks like someone trash talking other players in a streetball game. He is very critical of other players, uses a lot of hyperbole and compares political situations to various sports. The term streetball normally refers to basketball games played by local people in an urban neighborhood. However, when I was growing up in a far south suburb of Chicago, we did not have any city parks nearby. We had to play all kinds of sports in the street – baseball in the hot and humid days of summer, football in the cool, crisp days of fall, even hockey in the winter if the streets where icy enough. Lacking a hoop, we never played basketball in the street but we called both our baseball and football games streetball. We had our share of trash talking back in the day, mostly teasing our siblings and friends about their lack of abilities in whatever sport we happened to be playing. Calling someone stupid or lazy was not acceptable behavior on our block. In urban streetball games and professional basketball games, however, the teasing and name calling can amount to downright rude or vicious attacks on other players.

Even in common parlance talking about sports, we use metaphors of violent physical attacks to describe victories and losses. We say that one team beat or killed another team. Donald Trump uses similar expressions to talk about political rivals. He often uses hyperbole or exaggeration as he does his trash talking. Here are a few examples from his speech announcing his candidacy for president back in June. The metaphors in question are in italics.

Hyperbole/Trash Talking

Example: “Our country is in serious trouble. We don’t have victories anymore. We used to have victories, but we don’t have them. When was the last time anybody saw us beating, let’s say, China in a trade deal? They kill us. I beat China all the time. All the time.”

Example: “When did we beat Japan at anything? They send their cars over by the millions, and what do we do? When was the last time you saw a Chevrolet in Tokyo? It doesn’t exist, folks. They beat us all the time.”

Ohio State University beat the University of Michigan 34 to 0 in 1934.
Ohio State University beat the University of Michigan 34 to 0 in 1934.

Example: “When do we beat Mexico at the border? They’re laughing at us, at our stupidity. And now they are beating us economically. They are not our friend, believe me. But they’re killing us economically.”

Example: “I like them. And I hear their speeches. And they don’t talk jobs and they don’t talk China. When was the last time you heard China is killing us? They’re devaluing their currency to a level that you wouldn’t believe. It makes it impossible for our companies to compete, impossible. They’re killing us.”

Example: “Free trade can be wonderful if you have smart people, but we have people that are stupid. We have people that aren’t smart. And we have people that are controlled by special interests. And it’s just not going to work.”

Example: “Hey, I’m not saying they’re stupid. I like China. I sell apartments for — I just sold an apartment for $15 million to somebody from China. Am I supposed to dislike them? I own a big chunk of the Bank of America Building at 1290 Avenue of the Americas, that I got from China in a war. Very valuable.”

Example: TRUMP: “Sadly, the American dream is dead.”

AUDIENCE MEMBER: “Bring it back.”

Taking

Another aspect of streetball is taking the ball away, common in either basketball of football, as in a steal or a fumble.  In poor areas of town, such as where I grew up, often only one person on the block could afford a nice basketball or football, so we had to make sure that person was playing in the game or else we could not play at all. In rare cases, the person owning the ball, having lost a game or felt cheated, could say, “I’m going home and taking my ball with me!” thus ending the game. Not surprisingly, taking the ball away has many emotional feelings attached to the action. Donald Trump talks about countries taking away our jobs, our money or our military equipment. Ironically, in each case, as far as I know, our government or our corporations have given away those resources instead of someone else actually taking them. Nonetheless, Trump routinely blames other people for these losses. In one example, he even uses a street fighting phrase of saying that no one will push us around. He also talks about taking or bringing the jobs back as if he is taking a basketball back during a game.

One player tries to take the ball from another in a women's basketball game in Australia.
One player tries to take the ball from another in a women’s basketball game in Australia.

Example: “Iran is going to take over the Middle East, Iran and somebody else will get the oil, and it turned out that Iran is now taking over Iraq. Think of it. Iran is taking over Iraq, and they’re taking it over big league.”

Example: “Last week, I read 2,300 Humvees — these are big vehicles — were left behind for the enemy. 2,000? You would say maybe two, maybe four? 2,300 sophisticated vehicles, they ran, and the enemy took them.”

 

 

Example: “That’s right. A lot of people up there can’t get jobs. They can’t get jobs, because there are no jobs, because China has our jobs and Mexico has our jobs. They all have jobs.”

Example: “We need a leader that can bring back our jobs, can bring back our manufacturing, can bring back our military, can take care of our vets. Our vets have been abandoned.”

Example: “We need — we need somebody — we need somebody that literally will take this country and make it great again. We can do that.”

Example: “I’ll bring back our jobs from China, from Mexico, from Japan, from so many places. I’ll bring back our jobs, and I’ll bring back our money.”

Example: “And guess what? No problem. They’re going to build in Mexico. They’re going to take away thousands of jobs. It’s very bad for us.”

Example: “I will find — within our military, I will find the General Patton or I will find General MacArthur, I will find the right guy. I will find the guy that’s going to take that military and make it really work. Nobody, nobody will be pushing us around.”

Sports metaphors

Finally, Donald Trump uses more obvious sports metaphors. He talks about winners and losers, and alludes to people who lose card games or gambling who end up with nothing. He also uses the metaphor of being a football cheerleader to describe someone who is a champion of important causes. Most often, he uses the baseball metaphor of being in the big leagues, meaning professional baseball teams instead of minor league teams. He uses this metaphor to imply that something is happening on a large scale, or that he is a professional while other politicians are in the minor leagues. At the same time, he continues to use hyperbole such as describing results as a disaster, something being destructive, or the entire country going down the drain.

blog - trump - Sign_wrigley_fieldExample: “Iran is going to take over the Middle East, Iran and somebody else will get the oil, and it turned out that Iran is now taking over Iraq. Think of it. Iran is taking over Iraq, and they’re taking it over big league.”

Example: “And we have nothing. We can’t even go there. We have nothing. And every time we give Iraq equipment, the first time a bullet goes off in the air, they leave it.”

Example: “But Obamacare kicks in in 2016. Really big league. It is going to be amazingly destructive. Doctors are quitting. I have a friend who’s a doctor, and he said to me the other day, ‘Donald, I never saw anything like it. I have more accountants than I have nurses. It’s a disaster. My patients are beside themselves. They had a plan that was good. They have no plan now.’”

A cheerleader for the Green Bay Packers
A cheerleader for the Green Bay Packers

Example: “And we also need a cheerleader. You know, when President Obama was elected, I said, “Well, the one thing, I think he’ll do well. I think he’ll be a great cheerleader for the country. I think he’d be a great spirit.” He was vibrant. He was young. I really thought that he would be a great cheerleader. He’s not a leader. That’s true. You’re right about that. But he wasn’t a cheerleader. He’s actually a negative force. He’s been a negative force. He wasn’t a cheerleader; he was the opposite.”

Example: “We have all the cards, but we don’t know how to use them. We don’t even know that we have the cards, because our leaders don’t understand the game. We could turn off that spigot by charging them tax until they behave properly.”

blog - trump - Slot_machineExample: “But he used to say, ‘Donald, don’t go into Manhattan. That’s the big leagues. We don’t know anything about that. Don’t do it.’”

Example: “We have losers. We have losers. We have people that don’t have it. We have people that are morally corrupt. We have people that are selling this country down the drain.

*******

Clearly Donald Trump has tapped into the anger of many Americans towards their government and what they perceive as the lack of effective policies. More specifically it seems that Trump is appealing to middle-class and lower socioeconomic groups of Americans who feel the government has not been fair to them. Growing up in a lower middle class neighborhood myself, I can attest to the common sentiment in those areas that somehow the game of life is rigged against them, and that the rich people in the United States have gotten rich on the backs of the poor, which, historically, is actually true. It is quite ironic, then, that a billionaire such as Donald Trump is seen as the savior to the working class citizens of the United States.

To continue my streetball metaphor further, we can liken American society to a streetball game. The players like the game to go on peacefully just as it is, with everyone playing by the rules. However, in Trump’s ideology, Mexican immigrants have been breaking up their games for years, and China is constantly taking away the ball (well, the ball was probably made in China anyway…). Donald Trump acts as if he can keep the streetball game going without interference from anyone else. He is going to beat or kill anyone who tries to push them around, because he can play in the big leagues. Even though he is great at trash talking, we shall see if he can walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

Next time: More metaphors in the news