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Author Topic: Can you talk as well as your granny?  (Read 14017 times)

Offline Bored chemist

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #25 on: 07/02/2013 17:05:31 »
How many patients were killed by the transposition of metaphor and simile?
More seriously, people often use both forms effectively without knowing what the difference is.

BTW, can someone remind me which "law" of the internet explains why Pantodragon can't spell "analogy" correctly?
 

Offline David Cooper

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #26 on: 07/02/2013 20:18:55 »

 A metaphor is just a simile with the "like/as" part removed,

I hesitate here, because this is so wrong that I'm not quite sure that you are not actually joking.  However, the definition you give here is precisely the wrong definition that I see in textbooks and dictionaries.

I take it I've just read all the wrong books then. Well, even the best reference books can can contain huge errors and there are occasions in which most or even all of them do get definitions wrong to varying degrees, so it is fully possible that you have come up with better definitions of your own. The difficulty here though is that the meanings of these words don't look as if they will lend themselves to being narrowed down precisely from first principles through logical reasoning - it looks as if too much will be left to arbitrary decisions and could lead to many rival definitions which might be equally valid from a logical point of view. I haven't looked into their origins (beyond the Greek components), but that's typically an unreliable guide as the Greek components tend to be used in highly idiomatic ways, as indeed they are in this particular case. Perhaps you could spell your own definitions out clearly so that I can assess them for you in my capacity as a professional linguistician. I am always ready to throw away the books when they're wrong, so you'll get a very fair assessment from me.

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I heard an advertiser talk about the advert they had created to sell a car.  The advert used the image of a panther.  The advertiser referred to the image as a metaphor for the car.  In fact, it is not a metaphor.  Can you tell me why?  Also, can you tell me why it is a simile?

That's hard to do: if I go by the standard meanings of these words it would appear to be wrong not to call it a metaphor. I've done a little hunting to see if all the reference books I have are out of date, but I just find the same story everywhere I look. Even Wikipedia somehow gives the same definitions which don't appear to take your ideas into account, so perhaps you need to get along there to start an argument on the relevant discussion page(s).
 

Offline Ophiolite

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #27 on: 08/02/2013 16:13:32 »
So tell me, as an expert in these devices, which did I use in the second sentence of my quoted post? You are being marked on this one.
 

Offline Lmnre

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #28 on: 09/02/2013 04:50:57 »
What about "future shock"? With transactions and conversations occurring at a faster rate, there's less time to talk. If you read novels or actual speeches from history, they talk as if they have all the time in the world. There really was more time for thought, speaking, listening, etc.
 

Offline Minerva

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #29 on: 09/02/2013 07:30:45 »
There are the same amount of hours in a day as there always has been.  Certainly communication was slower previously but I don't think they necessarily had more time to converse and think.
 

Offline evan_au

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #30 on: 09/02/2013 09:24:54 »
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What language is being reduced to now is something purely functional and that suits machines which, of course, have no aesthetic sense.

I think you overestimate the capabilities of our current machines.
Probably the best current example of machine understanding of language is Google translate - and it can be clunky at times. (Other translators are probably smoother, but they have had more inputs from linguists, rather than being treated as a machine learning project.)

The structure of English is so perverse that it severely challenges the capabilities of our current machines and algorithms (as well as challenging the capabilities of many children). I have heard it said that Italian is better in this regard - less schooling is wasted on teaching the idiosyncrasies of the language - hopefully allowing students to go onto something more useful, like metaphor and literature.
 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #31 on: 09/02/2013 09:54:13 »
The structure of English is so perverse that it severely challenges the capabilities of our current machines and algorithms (as well as challenging the capabilities of many children). I have heard it said that Italian is better in this regard - less schooling is wasted on teaching the idiosyncrasies of the language
Each language has both benefits and challenges.
Italian, for the most part, is a very phonetic language.  So, there is more or less a 1:1 translation between written and spoken words (except for very few foreign words).
 
Unfortunately, verb conjugations are a nightmare, at least for me.  And, while the rules are fairly strong for regular verbs, all the "common" verbs are irregular. 

Anyway, talking to ESL (English as a second language) students, they often find the English grammar somewhat easier that might be expected because there is so much flexibility in the language.
Should I say:
Word order often is irrelevant.
or
Word order is often irrelevant.

But, there are often subtleties that are difficult to translate.

In fact, one often does best not to translate in a foreign language, but to just start thinking in the foreign language.
 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #32 on: 09/02/2013 10:09:12 »
Thinking about metaphors and similes.

I had stated earlier that they are less important in visual productions.  However, I may have in fact been wrong. 

At least advertising makes heavy use of visual metaphors and similes. 
So, beer may be like a cold mountain spring.  Or, is it a blast from a freezer? 

In fact with the visual metaphor, one intends for the viewer to make a direct comparison between the two ideas. 

I think I'm beginning to agree that the subtle differences between A is B, or A is like B is generally unimportant, except in the cases where the differences are ambiguous enough that it could be construed as false advertising.

Although, perhaps the trick in advertising is to create an association between A and B, without ever stating it.  So, create an association between fun and intoxication without ever stating it, and thus it can not be construed as a falsehood.
 

Offline Lmnre

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #33 on: 09/02/2013 16:02:19 »
What about "future shock"? With transactions and conversations occurring at a faster rate, there's less time to talk. If you read novels or actual speeches from history, they talk as if they have all the time in the world. There really was more time for thought, speaking, listening, etc.

There are the same amount of hours in a day as there always has been.  Certainly communication was slower previously but I don't think they necessarily had more time to converse and think.

Thank you. I should have said that, in olden days, circumstances allowed for more attention toward thinking, speaking and listening.

We are so "connected" nowadays (it supposedly being a good thing) that it diminishes our attention for old-fashioned speaking and listening. Someone driving on a highway talking on their cell phone while trying to get the news on the car radio has much less attention to pay toward face-to-face communication with the person next to them than would someone driving a horse and buggy.

Cell phones are a well-known curse for vacationers, as one cannot refuse to bring it with them and cannot refuse to answer a call from the boss. Not too long ago, going on vacation actually meant going on vacation (sadly now a thing of the past).
 

Offline pantodragon

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #34 on: 09/02/2013 16:17:18 »

 A metaphor is just a simile with the "like/as" part removed,

I hesitate here, because this is so wrong that I'm not quite sure that you are not actually joking.  However, the definition you give here is precisely the wrong definition that I see in textbooks and dictionaries.

I take it I've just read all the wrong books then. Well, even the best reference books can can contain huge errors and there are occasions in which most or even all of them do get definitions wrong to varying degrees, so it is fully possible that you have come up with better definitions of your own. The difficulty here though is that the meanings of these words don't look as if they will lend themselves to being narrowed down precisely from first principles through logical reasoning - it looks as if too much will be left to arbitrary decisions and could lead to many rival definitions which might be equally valid from a logical point of view. I haven't looked into their origins (beyond the Greek components), but that's typically an unreliable guide as the Greek components tend to be used in highly idiomatic ways, as indeed they are in this particular case. Perhaps you could spell your own definitions out clearly so that I can assess them for you in my capacity as a professional linguistician. I am always ready to throw away the books when they're wrong, so you'll get a very fair assessment from me.



You don't get meanings from dictionaries, you get them from experience.  A child does not use a dictionary and manages to grasp some quite difficult concepts before it is old enough to be able to use a dictionary.  We are all equipped to be able to leanr as children learn.  Personally, I could probably count on one hand the number of times in my life I have used a dicitionary to get the meaning of a word.
 

Offline pantodragon

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #35 on: 09/02/2013 16:21:04 »
So tell me, as an expert in these devices, which did I use in the second sentence of my quoted post? You are being marked on this one.

You've lost me.
 

Offline pantodragon

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #36 on: 09/02/2013 16:23:31 »
What about "future shock"? With transactions and conversations occurring at a faster rate, there's less time to talk. If you read novels or actual speeches from history, they talk as if they have all the time in the world. There really was more time for thought, speaking, listening, etc.

The modern phenomenon of the "motormouth" can only occur when people give up thinking and just rely on memory.  If as you say there is less time for thought, then there is simply less thinking being done.
 

Offline pantodragon

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #37 on: 09/02/2013 16:26:06 »


I think you overestimate the capabilities of our current machines.
Probably the best current example of machine understanding of language is Google translate - and it can be clunky at times. (Other translators are probably smoother, but they have had more inputs from linguists, rather than being treated as a machine learning project.)



It is rather pertinent to the discussion: you are being too literal here.  Literalness is symptomatic of the malaise that leads to a degradation of language and in particular, to an inability to understand and use metaphor.
 

Offline pantodragon

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #38 on: 09/02/2013 16:29:42 »


I think I'm beginning to agree that the subtle differences between A is B, or A is like B is generally unimportant,

This reduces English to the level of mathematics which is a language which is virtusally devoid of meaning.
 

Offline David Cooper

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #39 on: 09/02/2013 21:01:53 »
You don't get meanings from dictionaries, you get them from experience.  A child does not use a dictionary and manages to grasp some quite difficult concepts before it is old enough to be able to use a dictionary.  We are all equipped to be able to learn as children learn.

Of course we can learn that way, but we rely on other people to put us right when we get the wrong idea about the meaning of a word and use it incorrectly. If no one ever tells us and we never notice that we're using it differently from other people, we just go on using it wrongly. If you aren't sure you understand the meaning of a word properly, it's a good idea to check it by looking up a dictionary as it will often come as a surprise to find out that you've been making significant communication errors over many years or even decades. It is also a good idea after checking a few dictionaries to assume that the error was your own and not that all the books are wrong - the books represent the standard meanings of words as they are used by most people and it is unlikely that they have all got a definition wrong while you have got it right by guessing at the meaning as a child.

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Personally, I could probably count on one hand the number of times in my life I have used a dicitionary to get the meaning of a word.

In the light of what you've just told us, I can well believe that.
 

Offline Ophiolite

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #40 on: 10/02/2013 03:26:08 »
So tell me, as an expert in these devices, which did I use in the second sentence of my quoted post? You are being marked on this one.
You've lost me.
Your subsequent posts answered the question for me. You are correct in your ability to distinguish between metaphor and simile. The rest of the world is mistaken.
 

Offline evan_au

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #41 on: 10/02/2013 03:31:25 »
As well as the dictionary definition of metaphor, there is also a neurological definition of metaphor:
  • What structure(s) in the brain recognises an underlying relationship between two objects or concepts that on the surface seem dissimilar?
  • ...and rewards us for finding them?

Researchers have found through fMRI that some similar regions of the brain light up when presented with metaphor in both verbal and visual forms. There is a suggestion that some of the regions may differ depending on which senses are invoked in the similarity.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroesthetics#Visual_Metaphors

The fact that similar metaphors are sometimes adopted across several different languages and culture may suggest an underlying neurological connection between the concepts - or maybe they reflect that concepts like war are so common across multiple languages and cultures that they are an inevitable participant in metaphor... See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conceptual_metaphor
 

Offline David Cooper

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #42 on: 10/02/2013 23:00:21 »
I haven't given metaphors a lot of thought before, but it strikes me now that they would have been used from the earliest of times as a means to allow primitive language to evolve into more complex language, thus allowing new vocabulary to evolve out of existing words where to begin with the same word would have been used for two different things, one of those usages being metaphorical. When we talk of attacking someone's point in an argument we're still essentially using a metaphor which for reasons of economy has never evolved into a specialised term in its own right. "Attempting to invalidate" would be the correct literal way to express the same idea.

I've been thinking a bit more about visual metaphors too, and it now strikes me that there's something missing which makes it impossible to distinguish simile from metaphor in these cases: there is nothing stating "this is like" to make it a simile, but there is also nothing stating "this is" to make it a metaphor unless you depict a fusion of two things. I don't remember the car advert in enough detail to know if it fused the car with an animal or if it just jumped between the two ideas, but if it did the latter it could be described as simile or metaphor depending on how you read it. It might be best to think of it as allegory, but it isn't so important to make these distinctions as it is in language where it is clearly stated that something is or is like something else.

It also occurs to me that if you call a simile a metaphor, or a metaphor a simile, that isn't necessarily wrong as you may be using the term as a metaphor itself. "The poem fired off a machine gun blast of stunning metaphors" could thus be correct even if the poem contained no metaphors at all, though it would not be fully valid any more than any other sentence containing a metaphor is - they are all literally wrong, but they are literarily correct.
 

Offline pantodragon

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #43 on: 11/02/2013 16:42:49 »


Of course we can learn that way, but we rely on other people to put us right when we get the wrong idea about the meaning of a word and use it incorrectly.

Quote
Personally, I could probably count on one hand the number of times in my life I have used a dicitionary to get the meaning of a word.

In the light of what you've just told us, I can well believe that.

This is autism speaking.  The way you know if you're using a word correctly is by observing if you have been understood or not.  This is communication, but it requires high levels of awareness of other people.  Autistic people, of course, have very low awareness and are therefore unable to detect whether or not they have been understood.  So, I repeat, you learn your langaue in interaction with other people, not from dictionaries.

Your final comment either shows that you have not read many of my posts, or that your own language skills are insufficient to allow you to appreciate the very high level of language skills that pantodragon has.  Indeed, if the rest of the people on this forum rely upon dictionaries as much as you do, then pantodragon's superior language skills are ample evidfence learning through interaction is far more successful than learning from a dictionary.
 

Offline pantodragon

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #44 on: 11/02/2013 16:43:29 »


I'm glad you appreciate me at last.
 

Offline pantodragon

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #45 on: 11/02/2013 16:45:16 »


Researchers have found through fMRI that some similar regions of the brain light up when presented with metaphor in both verbal and visual forms. There is a suggestion that some of the regions may differ depending on which senses are invoked in the similarity.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroesthetics#Visual_Metaphors



The problem here is that the researchers must first know what a metaphor is and must provide evidence that they know, and all evidence suggests that this is unlikely in this day and age.
 

Offline pantodragon

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #46 on: 11/02/2013 16:47:29 »
there is nothing stating "this is like" to make it a simile, but there is also nothing stating "this is" to make it a metaphor unless you depict a fusion of two things.

This is not the difference bewteen a simile and a metaphor.  There is a great deal more to it than just pre-fixing the word with one or other of the phrases "this is like" and "this is".
 

Offline BenV

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #47 on: 11/02/2013 17:29:50 »


Of course we can learn that way, but we rely on other people to put us right when we get the wrong idea about the meaning of a word and use it incorrectly.

Quote
Personally, I could probably count on one hand the number of times in my life I have used a dicitionary to get the meaning of a word.

In the light of what you've just told us, I can well believe that.

This is autism speaking.  The way you know if you're using a word correctly is by observing if you have been understood or not.  This is communication, but it requires high levels of awareness of other people.  Autistic people, of course, have very low awareness and are therefore unable to detect whether or not they have been understood.  So, I repeat, you learn your langaue in interaction with other people, not from dictionaries.

Your final comment either shows that you have not read many of my posts, or that your own language skills are insufficient to allow you to appreciate the very high level of language skills that pantodragon has.  Indeed, if the rest of the people on this forum rely upon dictionaries as much as you do, then pantodragon's superior language skills are ample evidfence learning through interaction is far more successful than learning from a dictionary.

Pardon my frankness, but this is arrogant nonsense.  This may apply to an extent in spoken commuication, as if you hear a new word you can simply ask what it means.  If you're reading and you encounter a novel word, then "the way you know if you're using a word correctly is by observing if you have been understood or not" is irrelevant.  If I'm reading and I don't understand a term, I look it up.  Usually in a dictionary.

If you define words differently from other people, lets say "competition" and "cooperation" as examples, and simply expect people to understand and adopt your definition, then you're not a good communicator, and do not display "superior language skills". In fact, by not using accepted definitions of words (such as those definitions you find in a dictionary), you occlude meaning and create confusion.
 

Offline Minerva

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #48 on: 11/02/2013 17:50:12 »
This is autism speaking.  The way you know if you're using a word correctly is by observing if you have been understood or not.  This is communication, but it requires high levels of awareness of other people.  Autistic people, of course, have very low awareness and are therefore unable to detect whether or not they have been understood.

Offensive AND ignorant.....not a nice combination. 

People with autism are not a homogeneous group and their experiences of this world are individual.  There is most certainly not an underlying common symptom such as "low awareness". 
 

Offline David Cooper

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #49 on: 11/02/2013 19:58:38 »
This is autism speaking.

I'm not so sure about that. Maybe you should get yourself assessed by an expert instead of making wild guesses about that too.

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The way you know if you're using a word correctly is by observing if you have been understood or not.

You can be misunderstood repeatedly for years or decades without realising it. People may appear to understand you, but they may understand what you're saying quite differently from what you intend to say, such as a person I've encountered who kept going on about his bowel when he thought it meant bladder. He got a lot of funny looks from people, but I was sufficiently perceptive to realise what he meant where everyone else had failed over many decades. He'd have learned a lot sooner if he'd looked it up in a dictionary, but of course no one's going to look every word up just in case they've been getting it wrong - life's too short.

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This is communication, but it requires high levels of awareness of other people.  Autistic people, of course, have very low awareness and are therefore unable to detect whether or not they have been understood.  So, I repeat, you learn your langaue in interaction with other people, not from dictionaries.

Of course you learn your language from other people and not from dictionaries, but when you're arguing about the meaning of a technical term and all the books disagree with you, it makes sense to assume that the books are more likely to be right than you are.

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Your final comment either shows that you have not read many of my posts, or that your own language skills are insufficient to allow you to appreciate the very high level of language skills that pantodragon has.

I've read all your posts in this thread, and in general you're doing okay here (though I can't vouch for your other threads). You've only tripped up on metaphors and similes and painted yourself into an awkward corner on that point, but I expect it'll dry some day. It would be easier though just to admit you were wrong about something rather than trying to make the rest of the world adjust to accommodate your error. Your reading of other people is pretty poor though - huge lack of perception there, old boy.

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Indeed, if the rest of the people on this forum rely upon dictionaries as much as you do, then pantodragon's superior language skills are ample evidfence learning through interaction is far more successful than learning from a dictionary.

Ample evidfence? Indeed. Well, I'm lazy when it comes to looking up dictionaries too and avoid doing so wherever possible, but when I do feel an overwhelming need to look them up I don't make the mistake of assuming that my theory about the meaning of a word acquired from my interactions with other people is better than the theory of the many expert lexicographers who have researched widely to try to pin down the real meaning(s).

Incidentally, you might also have noticed that you were actually the first person here to mention dictionaries, telling us that most of them are wrong about metaphors and similes. That suggests that you were the first to look them up, and you rejected what you found there. I only started looking them up after you put doubt into my mind as to the meanings that I'd theorised these words had based on my interactions with other people, and after doing so I kept an open mind as to whether they or you were right.

This is not the difference bewteen a simile and a metaphor.  There is a great deal more to it than just pre-fixing the word with one or other of the phrases "this is like" and "this is".

Well, I'm still waiting to hear your superior definitions, but for some reason you're withholding them. Your failure to supply them appeared to indicate that you realised you were wrong. But maybe you're right though and just have some kind of problem with sharing, so I'll continue to leave the door open to the idea that you've got something worth hearing and hope that you won't continue to keep it to yourself.
 

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #49 on: 11/02/2013 19:58:38 »

 

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