On this the 4th of July, I thought I should mention an act of patriotism that occurred last week, an act which also illustrates a very important principle of metaphor creation and usage. State Senator Wendy Davis of Texas enacted a marathon filibuster on her senate floor to prevent the passage of a draconian anti-abortion bill. She stood on the floor, wearing pink tennis shoes, for 13 hours, without even going to the bathroom. Poignantly, she was not only literally standing up, she was figuratively standing up for women’s rights in Texas. For a moving video summary of the filibuster, see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/28/wendy-davis-abortion-filibuster_n_3516524.html.
One of the most brilliant insights of the work of Lakoff and Johnson is that we create metaphors based on bodily experiences. In this case, standing up allows a person to see better, have greater ease of movement, and a greater ability to act in case of danger. In terms of power, a person standing up is in a dominating position compared to a person sitting down. Moreover, people who are about to fight must be standing up in order to strike blows against an opponent or defend oneself from attacks. Thus, metaphorically, to stand up indicates that a person is ready for action. Actually, we cannot even speak of being ready for action without using the metaphor to stand up for something. It can also mean to be supportive of a certain issue. Senator Davis certainly stood up for women’s rights. It should be noted that Ms. Davis had help from another State Senator, Leticia Van De Putte, who rushed back from the funeral of her own father who had been killed in a car accident earlier that week. Two amazing heroines from Texas!
Here are a few examples of metaphors created with the bodily experience of standing.
When we stand up, metaphorically we indicate strength for or against a certain position.
Example: During World War II, England, France and the United States stood up against the armies of Hitler.
take a stand
To take a stand means that one is firm in one’s beliefs.
Example: Martin Luther King, Jr. took a stand against the discrimination of African-Americans in the 1960s.
where one stands
To have an opinion or position on an important issue may be called where one stands on that issue.
Example: During a presidential campaign, a candidate must make clear where he or she stands on the important issues such as the economy and national defense.
To stand by indicates that one is not doing anything, either to wait for something to happen, or to deliberately do nothing out of fear or laziness. It can also mean that a person or organization affirms that its decisions, products or policies are absolutely good.
Example: U.S. soldiers are always standing by in case they are needed to defend our country.
Example: During the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, most countries stood by and did nothing to stop the murder.
Example: George W. Bush always stood by his decision to invade Iraq as a response to the 9/11 attacks.
In English, a verb phrase can sometimes be made into a noun. Thus the verb phrase to stand by can be changed to a noun form, spelled as one word, to mean the same thing as the verb.
Example: The American Red Cross is a relief organization always on standby ready to help victims of natural disasters.
To stand down is a military term meaning that the military personnel are ready to act but can rest for the moment.
Example: During a war, if a battle is postponed, the army must stand down until the battle begins.
stand in the way
To stand in the way of something means to stop its progress or completion.
Example: Sometimes the members of Congress stand in the way of the president trying to implement his policies.
If someone is accused of a crime, we may say that they stand accused, as if they are already in the courtroom facing the judge for his or her sentence.
Example: Osama Bin Laden stood accused of organizing the 9/11 attacks on New York until his death in 2011.
A person’s reputation for honesty, integrity or ability to get things done may be referred to as his or her standing in the community. A political group can also have a standing in the nation, or a country may have a standing in the world.
Example: The war in Iraq endangered the moral and political standing of the United States throughout the world.
In a large fight or a boxing match, the losers will be knocked down, and the winners will be left standing up. In popular terms, a person or group who is left standing is the one that has defeated all the competitors.
Example: In the 2008 economic crisis, some Wall Street firms had to close their doors, while others such as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Chase were left standing.
In a standoff, two people, groups or countries do not fight but silently oppose each other hoping for a resolution of their problems.
Example: During the Cold War, there was a standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union.
A stand in is a person who replaces or substitutes for another person.
Example: In case of emergency, the vice-president of the United States is a stand in for the president.
When one takes a stand for or against something, one is also taking a stance.
Example: The Bush administration took the stance that the War in Iraq was necessary to remove the dictator Saddam Hussein.
Next time: Propping Up Governments: Metaphors of Buildings