Explore this map of 13 centuries' worth of English metaphors Someone who likes to show off is often referred to as a peacock. (Thinkstock)
Explore this map of 13 centuries' worth of English metaphors
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English is a language rich in metaphor. Take, for example, the many ways that human behavior can be linked with birds. Someone who is fearful is a chicken. A show-off can be called a peacock. And a prideful person can be said to preen. 

But some metaphors are deeply-rooted in the language. Speakers forget they are metaphors at all. 

For instance, to comprehend literally meant "to grasp" in Latin. So reports Libby Brooks for The Guardian. 

Now, to fully appreciate the history of English metaphors, dive into the online Metaphor Map. It was created by researchers at the University of Glasgow. That is in Scotland.
 
The project took three years. Brooks said it is based on data from the university's Historical Thesaurus of English. It also includes words and phrases that have cropped up over 13 centuries. The visualization shows connections between different concepts. Brooks explains:
 
"For example, we describe a "healthy economy" or a "clear argument." We are mapping from one domain of experience that is quite concrete, such as medicine or sight, onto another domain that is rather more abstract. In this case, finance or perception, and thus benefits from metaphorical explanation."
 
And, consider the phrase "cropped up." It links the more concrete domain of plants to the more abstract one of creation or occurrence.
 
For Hyperallergic, Allison Meier offers tips on how to explore the visualization. And she explains how far the project has yet to go. She explains:
 
"A quarter of the project's connections are online with plans for expansion. They include an Old English map. It takes a bit of experimenting with the map to explore its tiered navigation. And the university posted a how-to video as an introduction. It's also recommended that you check out this page showing all the categories completed online with dates and information. And, utilize the timeline view, which makes it easier to pinpoint different eras."
 
The latest blog post explores the bird metaphors mentioned above in greater detail. The timeline view shows that linking light with knowledge (enlighten, for example) dates back to the late 1100s. And linking texture with a foolish person (a clod, a lump) started in the late 1500s.
 
The project is good for more than just curiosity, the principal investigator, Wendy Anderson, told The Guardian.
 
"This helps us to see how our language shapes our understanding. The connections we make between different areas of meaning in English show, to some extent, how we mentally structure our world," she says.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
How is the Online Metaphor map a metaphor?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (33)
  • GigiSylvester-Ste
    10/16/2015 - 03:55 p.m.

    This is cool. I never knew that someone who likes to show off is a "peacock".

  • TaylorSeifert-Ste
    10/17/2015 - 12:15 a.m.

    In a way I guess I will never be able to appreciate the English language as much as I should, yet I know I have learned only the surface of what I should know and understand. People in America do talk in metaphors, even when they don't realize it. And I think the way a person speaks also depends on a person's personality. Some of the adjectives people use to describe things are quite interesting, especially when they seem to have nothing to do with the thing, person, or event. It always amazes me how the world has so many different languages and how a person's mind can come to understand more than just one of them.

  • John0724-YYCA
    10/19/2015 - 09:29 p.m.

    English is very rich in metaphor and I do agree that some people forgot metaphors or people don't even know that they are using metaphors. But I never knew that there was so much more metaphors that I could think of. It is even way older than me so older people used it way before me.

  • Eugene0808-YYCA
    10/19/2015 - 10:04 p.m.

    I think this is cool because you can look at the history of 13 centuries of metaphors. You may find words that you have never heard of before. It would be interesting to look up phrases that were used a long time ago.
    How is the Online Metaphor map a metaphor?
    The Online Metaphor map is a metaphor because it states that it has 13 centuries worth of metaphors.

  • TehyaWhite-Ste
    10/20/2015 - 08:32 a.m.

    Metaphors are interesting because you can literally stretch almost any word or idea to compare i to another word/idea no matter if they really have nothing in common. I think it's a good idea to write them all down and have them all in one place to look at.

  • EH-Fuh
    10/22/2015 - 11:20 a.m.

    It is a metaphor because you are not mapping true distance from concrete places.

  • ShawnaWeiser-Ste
    10/22/2015 - 04:31 p.m.

    I never knew that you could link a person to texture. I wonder what else you could link a person to. This makes you think about things a little more in depth.

  • aliviab-ste
    10/23/2015 - 04:34 p.m.

    It's interesting to realize that the English language is so complex that we are using it in ways that we don't even realize anymore. Metaphors have become actually words with meanings that can then can be used to make more metaphors. It's a giant circle that has been going on for thousands of years without even realizing it.

  • autianae-ste
    10/27/2015 - 01:28 p.m.

    Metaphors are used in everyday conversations without realizing and used in writing to make it "more interesting". To me, metaphors are interesting because it makes me, as a reader to think about what it means and what it's relating to.

  • maxwellt-2-bar
    10/28/2015 - 01:49 a.m.

    Since this site is not literally a map, it is being compared to a map because maps provide knowledge and help you find your way, and this site hopes to help you on your way to understanding the English language. This article made me laugh when I realized that the metaphor website has a metaphor in its name.

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