Sunday, June 12, 2005

Metaphor

A metaphor is the use of something to represent something else. Metaphors are powerful in language and in visual representation, and therefore quite popular. In Arabic poetry, the use of metaphor is very high "so and so was a lion" and that sort of thing.

Sometimes metaphors are not only used because they are powerful but because there is a social convention against discussing something or other on its own terms. In this case, you have to be pretty creative to make sure that the association is clear enough. I saw a whopper of a visual metaphor yesterday that illustrates this quite brilliantly and ties in with my earlier posts with a sort of theme. (No, just wait for this.)

I was watching 10 minutes or so of a Bond movie on the Saudi movie channel, MBC 2 (it shows American movies pretty much non-stop). It has been doing a Bond kick lately on Saturday nights (we caught Dr. No a few weeks ago which was really funny to watch). I thought I had identified this one as "From Russia with Love" so I watched through the commercials to see from the little announcement of the movie name if I was right.

The commercial showed a fast food cup with a cover on it and a hand trying to insert a straw. The straw was pink and thin, and kept bending. The hand eventually gave up on the attempt and bent the straw a couple of times experimentally before disappearing and re-appearing with a big, thick, blue straw which it jammed into the cup successfully. Then the picture disappeared and a male voice said "Viagra!" while the word and a picture of the pill appeared on the screen.

I sat there for at least a minute trying to figure out whether I was shocked, amused, horrified or what. That is a pretty effective metaphor. More so the first time you see the ad, as (at least in my case - maybe I am just too naive) you really are not psychologically prepared for the punch line.

I plan to provide more neat, salacious Saudi advertising gimmicks illustrating synechdoche or something as they come up. It will make a very amusing series, won't it?

108 comments:

WitNit said...

Ah, synecdoche. For people who don't know, that's when you use a part to stand in for the whole, like "Friends, Romans, countrymen, Lend me your EARS."

What you describe, Anna, is more like analogy. The straw is to the lid as the penis is to the...

There are a bunch of figures of speech very close to each other. Metaphor is stating when one thing actually IS something, in order to access a compressed truth that is hard to descibe or articulate.

When Romeo says, "But Soft, what light through yonder breaks? It is the East and Juliet is the sun" he manages to compress so much meaning in few words: Juliet is radiant, she is like the dawn, she symbolizes new life, a new day, and her contenance warms me.

Zwack said...

synecdoche can also be the opposite (the generic used for the specific rather than the specific used for the generic...) e.g. Someone had called the law. (law instead of police)

But, yes the advertisement sounds more like an analogy than a metaphor.

In this case it sounds even more like a Euphemism though. Maybe Euphemism by Analogy?

Euphemism is the substitution of a harsh or vulgar term by one that is less harsh. So the straw is intended to substitute for an item that they felt they couldn't show in the advert.

Of course the advert fails for the obvious reason... Anyone with half a brain would take the lid off the cup rather than wasting time fetching a larger, tougher straw.

Of course the advertisers want people to buy their product rather than find alternatives.

Z.

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Anna in Portland (was Cairo) said...

Update! My husband saw another similar ad involving matches (first cardboard, then wood) trying to light fancy candles on a dining room table. Does not have the "penetration" aspect at all, unlike the straw/cup, so maybe the straw/cup one is a later more accurate one.

A.B. said...

Do you know what agency made that viagra ad?

A.B.
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As far as i know Metaphor is the concept of understanding one thing in terms of another. A metaphor is a figure of speech that constructs an analogy between two things or ideas; the analogy is conveyed by the use of a metaphorical word in place of some other word. For example: "Her eyes were glistening jewels".

Metaphor is or was also occasionally used to denote rhetorical figures of speech that achieve their effects via association, comparison or resemblance (e.g., antithesis, hyperbole, metonymy and simile, which are then all considered types of metaphor). Aristotle used both this sense and the regular, current sense above.

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