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

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 so ingrained in the language that 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 from researchers at the University of Glasgow.
Brooks explains that the three-year-long project 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, when 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."
Likewise, consider the phrase "cropped up." It links the more concrete domain of plants to the more abstract ones 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, for example, 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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How is the Online Metaphor map a metaphor?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • Steve0620-yyca
    10/19/2015 - 10:01 p.m.

    I think that it is interesting how people don't realize they are using metaphors because it is so common. Researchers have made it easier for people to use the metaphor map. Many people have been called some type of birds for example because they show the same trait which is a metaphor. I think that it is interesting how important metaphors can become for people and how it can show something about people's lives.

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