In the past few weeks, I have heard the expression of people latching on to different presidential candidates and supporting their campaigns. It is very common for us to use expressions of physical forces to describe abstract processes. In previous posts I have described metaphors of pushing, pulling, bending, shaking, throwing, etc. Today I would like to share a few examples of metaphorical expressions describing one object being attached to another.
To tie something means to use a piece of string, rope or shoe laces to attach something to something else. We must use our hands with a certain amount of physical force to make sure the two objects are tied together tightly. Commonly we can tie our shoelaces or tie up a package with string. Metaphorically, a tie is any strong connection between two or more people or groups of people.
Example: The United States has close political ties to European and Asian countries.
When two objects are tied closely together, they are of equal distance apart. This concept gives rise to the idea in sports of two competitors or teams being tied in the final score of the game, as in soccer or tennis. In politics, we may also say that two candidates are tied in an election if they have the same percentage of supporting voters in polls, or if they receive the same number of votes.
Example: In 2008, Barack Obama and John McCain were virtually tied until the final days of the presidential election.
Sometimes, in order to make sure that an object is securely tied, we may use a large number of strong knots to hold the string or rope in place. Metaphorically, anything that is very confusing or tightly controlled may be described as being tied up in knots.
Example: The financial crisis of 2008 left many banking regulations tied up in knots preventing people and small businesses from getting loans quickly.
in a bind
Another word for tie is to bind something together, usually with a stronger sense of force and attachment. In a common metaphorical expression, someone in the middle of a complex problem with difficult decisions to make may be described as being in a bind.
Example: Confusing immigration policies put many legal and illegal immigrants in a bind and make it difficult for them to stay in the country.
The past form of to bind is bound. An object can be bound with string or rope. Metaphorically people or groups can also be bound together by similar values, experiences or goals.
Example: Many Republican voters are bound together by values of fiscal conservatism.
The noun form of to bind is to have a bond. As with the word bound, the term bond can represent either a physical or metaphorical attachment.
Example: A good presidential candidate will bond with many different types of voters with a good campaign speech which will help him or her win the election.
A strap is a long piece of leather or cloth that is used to tie two objects together. In a strange expression of unknown origins, a person without money can be described as being strapped for cash. Apparently there was an old expression of getting financial credit from a bank as if one were strapped to that bank until the money was paid back, indicating that one was short of cash until the load was paid off. In any case, we have the common expressions strapped for cash meaning to be without money.
Example: After the financial crisis of 2008, many Americans lost their jobs and their families were strapped for cash.
A latch is a small mechanical device that works to hold a door closed. Metaphorically, an animal such as a crab or turtle can also latch on to a person’s finger. More abstractly, we can speak of latching on to an idea or program.
Example: In 2016, many liberals latched on to the Bernie Sander’s campaign for president because of his progressive policies.
If two or more objects are tied together with string, we may say that the objects are attached with strings. In a common metaphorical expression, an agreement or deal that has a series of conditions attached to it may be described as having strings attached. Ideally a political deal has no strings attached so that it can implemented as quickly and easily as possible.
Example: Unfortunately, most bills being voted on in Congress do not come with no strings attached. Most bills have sections attached that provide money or services to the constituents in the districts of the members of Congress who wrote the bills.
Something that is not tied down securely to a vehicle may flap in the wind during the journey. Metaphorically, a person who does not change his or her opinion or is swayed by public opinion on important issues may be described as being unflappable.
Example: Barack Obama was described as being unflappable as he dealt with the huge financial crises in the first two years of his presidency.
An object can be attached to another object simply through the adhesive properties of a glue or other substance. We can say that a piece of paper, for example, sticks to a cardboard backing with glue. In metaphorical terms, when a person does not change his or her mind about a decision, then we may that he or she is sticking to their position.
Example: When Barack Obama was elected president, he promised to end the war in Iraq and close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He stuck to his decision to get the troops out of Iraq, but he was not able to stick to his plan of closing Guantanamo Bay.
stuck, stuck in the middle of something
An object or person can also be stuck in a certain position depending on the force of the adhesive material. Metaphorically, we can be stuck in a bad situation.
Example: An American president often gets stuck in the middle of controversial issues debated by members of Congress.
Clearly we can find many examples of the concept of two objects being tied together to express the idea of abstract connections between people and organizations. Once again, we see how everyday experiences contribute to our creation of political metaphors. If you find any other examples, please let me know!