full transcript

From the Ted Talk by Jane Hirshfield: The art of the metaphor

Unscramble the Blue Letters

When we talk, sometimes we say things directly. "I'm going to the store, I'll be back in five minutes." Other times though, we talk in a way that cnjeuors up a small scene. "It's raining cats and dogs out," we say, or "I was waiting for the other shoe to drop." Metaphors are a way to talk about one thing by describing something else. That may seem roundabout, but it's not. Seeing and hearing and tasting are how we know anything first. The piohohlpesr wiilalm jaems described the world of newborn infants as a "buzzing and blooming confusion." Abstract ideas are pale things compared to those first bees and blossoms. Metaphors think with the imagination and the sseens. The hot chili peppers in them explode in the mouth and the mind. They're also precise. We don't really stop to think about a raindrop the size of an actual cat or dog, but as soon as I do, I razliee that I'm quite certain the dog has to be a small one — a cocker spaniel, or a dachshund — and not a golden Lab or Newfoundland. I think a belage might be about right. A metaphor isn't true or untrue in any ordinary sense. Metaphors are art, not science, but they can still feel right or wrong. A metaphor that isn't good leaves you ceosnufd. You know what it mnaes to feel like a square wheel, but not what it's like to be tired as a whale. There's a paradox to metaphors. They almost always say things that aren't true. If you say, "there's an elephant in the room," there isn't an actual one, looking for the peanut dish on the table. Metaphors get under your skin by gsoihntg right past the logical mind. Plus, we're used to thinking in images. Every night we dream impossible things. And when we wake up, that way of thinking's still in us. We take off our draem shoes, and button ourselves into our levis. Some metaphors include the words "like" or "as." "Sweet as honey," "strong as a tree." Those are called similes. A simile is a metaphor that admits it's making a comparison. Similes tend to make you think. Metaphors let you feel things directly. Take Shakespeare's famous metaphor, "All the world's a stage." "The world is like a stage" just seems tnehnir, and more boring. meohartps can also live in vrbes. eimly Dickinson begins a poem, "I saw no way — the heavens were stitched —" and we know instantly what it would feel like if the sky were a fabric sewn shut. They can live in adjectives, too. "Still waters run deep," we say of someone quiet and thoughtful. And the deep matters as much as the stnieslls and the water do. One of the clearest pcaels to find good metaphors is in poems. Take this haiku by the 18th-century Japanese poet Issa. "On a bncrah floating downriver, a cricket singing." The first way to meet a mahpoter is just to see the world through its eyes: an insect sgnis from a branch passing by in the mildde of the rievr. Even as you see that though, some part of you recognizes in the image a small portrait of what it's like to live in this world of chgnae and time, our human fate is to vnsiah, as surely as that small cricket will, and still, we do what it does. We live, we sing. Sometimes a poem tkeas a metaphor and extends it, buniildg on one idea in many ways. Here's the beginning of lsnaogtn Hughes' famous poem "Mother to Son." "Well, son, I'll tell you. Life for me ain't been no cysrtal stair. It's had tacks in it, and splinters, and boards torn up, and places with no carpet on the floor." Langston huhges is making a metaphor that cmaroeps a hard life to a wrecked house you still have to live in. Those splinters and tacks feel real, they hurt your own feet and your own heart, but the mother is describing her life here, not her actual house. And hunger, and cold, exhausting work and poverty are what's also inside those splinters. Metaphors aren't always about our human lives and feelings. The Chicago poet Carl sdrnuabg wtroe, "The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches, and then meovs on." The comparison here is simple. Fog is being described as a cat. But a good metaphor isn't a puzzle, or a way to convey hedidn maniegns, it's a way to let you feel and know something differently. No one who's heard this poem ftroegs it. You see fog, and there's a small grey cat nearby. Metaphors give wodrs a way to go beyond their own meaning. They're handles on the door of what we can know, and of what we can imagine. Each door leads to some new hsoue, and some new world that only that one handle can open. What's amazing is this: by making a handle, you can make a wrlod.

Open Cloze

When we talk, sometimes we say things directly. "I'm going to the store, I'll be back in five minutes." Other times though, we talk in a way that ________ up a small scene. "It's raining cats and dogs out," we say, or "I was waiting for the other shoe to drop." Metaphors are a way to talk about one thing by describing something else. That may seem roundabout, but it's not. Seeing and hearing and tasting are how we know anything first. The ___________ _______ _____ described the world of newborn infants as a "buzzing and blooming confusion." Abstract ideas are pale things compared to those first bees and blossoms. Metaphors think with the imagination and the ______. The hot chili peppers in them explode in the mouth and the mind. They're also precise. We don't really stop to think about a raindrop the size of an actual cat or dog, but as soon as I do, I _______ that I'm quite certain the dog has to be a small one — a cocker spaniel, or a dachshund — and not a golden Lab or Newfoundland. I think a ______ might be about right. A metaphor isn't true or untrue in any ordinary sense. Metaphors are art, not science, but they can still feel right or wrong. A metaphor that isn't good leaves you ________. You know what it _____ to feel like a square wheel, but not what it's like to be tired as a whale. There's a paradox to metaphors. They almost always say things that aren't true. If you say, "there's an elephant in the room," there isn't an actual one, looking for the peanut dish on the table. Metaphors get under your skin by ________ right past the logical mind. Plus, we're used to thinking in images. Every night we dream impossible things. And when we wake up, that way of thinking's still in us. We take off our _____ shoes, and button ourselves into our _____. Some metaphors include the words "like" or "as." "Sweet as honey," "strong as a tree." Those are called similes. A simile is a metaphor that admits it's making a comparison. Similes tend to make you think. Metaphors let you feel things directly. Take Shakespeare's famous metaphor, "All the world's a stage." "The world is like a stage" just seems _______, and more boring. _________ can also live in _____. _____ Dickinson begins a poem, "I saw no way — the heavens were stitched —" and we know instantly what it would feel like if the sky were a fabric sewn shut. They can live in adjectives, too. "Still waters run deep," we say of someone quiet and thoughtful. And the deep matters as much as the _________ and the water do. One of the clearest ______ to find good metaphors is in poems. Take this haiku by the 18th-century Japanese poet Issa. "On a ______ floating downriver, a cricket singing." The first way to meet a ________ is just to see the world through its eyes: an insect _____ from a branch passing by in the ______ of the _____. Even as you see that though, some part of you recognizes in the image a small portrait of what it's like to live in this world of ______ and time, our human fate is to ______, as surely as that small cricket will, and still, we do what it does. We live, we sing. Sometimes a poem _____ a metaphor and extends it, ________ on one idea in many ways. Here's the beginning of ________ Hughes' famous poem "Mother to Son." "Well, son, I'll tell you. Life for me ain't been no _______ stair. It's had tacks in it, and splinters, and boards torn up, and places with no carpet on the floor." Langston ______ is making a metaphor that ________ a hard life to a wrecked house you still have to live in. Those splinters and tacks feel real, they hurt your own feet and your own heart, but the mother is describing her life here, not her actual house. And hunger, and cold, exhausting work and poverty are what's also inside those splinters. Metaphors aren't always about our human lives and feelings. The Chicago poet Carl ________ _____, "The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches, and then _____ on." The comparison here is simple. Fog is being described as a cat. But a good metaphor isn't a puzzle, or a way to convey ______ ________, it's a way to let you feel and know something differently. No one who's heard this poem _______ it. You see fog, and there's a small grey cat nearby. Metaphors give _____ a way to go beyond their own meaning. They're handles on the door of what we can know, and of what we can imagine. Each door leads to some new _____, and some new world that only that one handle can open. What's amazing is this: by making a handle, you can make a _____.

Solution

  1. realize
  2. dream
  3. emily
  4. langston
  5. philosopher
  6. house
  7. william
  8. beagle
  9. middle
  10. words
  11. forgets
  12. places
  13. branch
  14. wrote
  15. takes
  16. metaphor
  17. verbs
  18. hidden
  19. sings
  20. meanings
  21. james
  22. world
  23. change
  24. means
  25. thinner
  26. senses
  27. conjures
  28. ghosting
  29. building
  30. metaphors
  31. river
  32. sandburg
  33. stillness
  34. hughes
  35. moves
  36. crystal
  37. confused
  38. lives
  39. compares
  40. vanish

Original Text

When we talk, sometimes we say things directly. "I'm going to the store, I'll be back in five minutes." Other times though, we talk in a way that conjures up a small scene. "It's raining cats and dogs out," we say, or "I was waiting for the other shoe to drop." Metaphors are a way to talk about one thing by describing something else. That may seem roundabout, but it's not. Seeing and hearing and tasting are how we know anything first. The philosopher William James described the world of newborn infants as a "buzzing and blooming confusion." Abstract ideas are pale things compared to those first bees and blossoms. Metaphors think with the imagination and the senses. The hot chili peppers in them explode in the mouth and the mind. They're also precise. We don't really stop to think about a raindrop the size of an actual cat or dog, but as soon as I do, I realize that I'm quite certain the dog has to be a small one — a cocker spaniel, or a dachshund — and not a golden Lab or Newfoundland. I think a beagle might be about right. A metaphor isn't true or untrue in any ordinary sense. Metaphors are art, not science, but they can still feel right or wrong. A metaphor that isn't good leaves you confused. You know what it means to feel like a square wheel, but not what it's like to be tired as a whale. There's a paradox to metaphors. They almost always say things that aren't true. If you say, "there's an elephant in the room," there isn't an actual one, looking for the peanut dish on the table. Metaphors get under your skin by ghosting right past the logical mind. Plus, we're used to thinking in images. Every night we dream impossible things. And when we wake up, that way of thinking's still in us. We take off our dream shoes, and button ourselves into our lives. Some metaphors include the words "like" or "as." "Sweet as honey," "strong as a tree." Those are called similes. A simile is a metaphor that admits it's making a comparison. Similes tend to make you think. Metaphors let you feel things directly. Take Shakespeare's famous metaphor, "All the world's a stage." "The world is like a stage" just seems thinner, and more boring. Metaphors can also live in verbs. Emily Dickinson begins a poem, "I saw no way — the heavens were stitched —" and we know instantly what it would feel like if the sky were a fabric sewn shut. They can live in adjectives, too. "Still waters run deep," we say of someone quiet and thoughtful. And the deep matters as much as the stillness and the water do. One of the clearest places to find good metaphors is in poems. Take this haiku by the 18th-century Japanese poet Issa. "On a branch floating downriver, a cricket singing." The first way to meet a metaphor is just to see the world through its eyes: an insect sings from a branch passing by in the middle of the river. Even as you see that though, some part of you recognizes in the image a small portrait of what it's like to live in this world of change and time, our human fate is to vanish, as surely as that small cricket will, and still, we do what it does. We live, we sing. Sometimes a poem takes a metaphor and extends it, building on one idea in many ways. Here's the beginning of Langston Hughes' famous poem "Mother to Son." "Well, son, I'll tell you. Life for me ain't been no crystal stair. It's had tacks in it, and splinters, and boards torn up, and places with no carpet on the floor." Langston Hughes is making a metaphor that compares a hard life to a wrecked house you still have to live in. Those splinters and tacks feel real, they hurt your own feet and your own heart, but the mother is describing her life here, not her actual house. And hunger, and cold, exhausting work and poverty are what's also inside those splinters. Metaphors aren't always about our human lives and feelings. The Chicago poet Carl Sandburg wrote, "The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches, and then moves on." The comparison here is simple. Fog is being described as a cat. But a good metaphor isn't a puzzle, or a way to convey hidden meanings, it's a way to let you feel and know something differently. No one who's heard this poem forgets it. You see fog, and there's a small grey cat nearby. Metaphors give words a way to go beyond their own meaning. They're handles on the door of what we can know, and of what we can imagine. Each door leads to some new house, and some new world that only that one handle can open. What's amazing is this: by making a handle, you can make a world.

Frequently Occurring Word Combinations

Important Words

  1. abstract
  2. actual
  3. adjectives
  4. admits
  5. amazing
  6. art
  7. beagle
  8. bees
  9. beginning
  10. begins
  11. blooming
  12. blossoms
  13. boards
  14. boring
  15. branch
  16. building
  17. button
  18. called
  19. carl
  20. carpet
  21. cat
  22. cats
  23. change
  24. chicago
  25. chili
  26. city
  27. clearest
  28. cocker
  29. cold
  30. compared
  31. compares
  32. comparison
  33. confused
  34. confusion
  35. conjures
  36. convey
  37. cricket
  38. crystal
  39. dachshund
  40. deep
  41. describing
  42. dickinson
  43. differently
  44. dish
  45. dog
  46. dogs
  47. door
  48. downriver
  49. dream
  50. drop
  51. elephant
  52. emily
  53. exhausting
  54. explode
  55. extends
  56. fabric
  57. famous
  58. fate
  59. feel
  60. feelings
  61. feet
  62. find
  63. floating
  64. floor
  65. fog
  66. forgets
  67. ghosting
  68. give
  69. golden
  70. good
  71. grey
  72. haiku
  73. handle
  74. handles
  75. harbor
  76. hard
  77. haunches
  78. heard
  79. hearing
  80. heart
  81. heavens
  82. hidden
  83. honey
  84. hot
  85. house
  86. hughes
  87. human
  88. hunger
  89. hurt
  90. idea
  91. ideas
  92. image
  93. images
  94. imagination
  95. imagine
  96. impossible
  97. include
  98. infants
  99. insect
  100. instantly
  101. issa
  102. james
  103. japanese
  104. lab
  105. langston
  106. leads
  107. leaves
  108. life
  109. live
  110. lives
  111. logical
  112. making
  113. matters
  114. meaning
  115. meanings
  116. means
  117. meet
  118. metaphor
  119. metaphors
  120. middle
  121. mind
  122. minutes
  123. mother
  124. mouth
  125. moves
  126. nearby
  127. newborn
  128. newfoundland
  129. night
  130. open
  131. ordinary
  132. pale
  133. paradox
  134. part
  135. passing
  136. peanut
  137. peppers
  138. philosopher
  139. places
  140. poem
  141. poems
  142. poet
  143. portrait
  144. poverty
  145. precise
  146. puzzle
  147. quiet
  148. raindrop
  149. raining
  150. real
  151. realize
  152. recognizes
  153. river
  154. room
  155. roundabout
  156. run
  157. sandburg
  158. scene
  159. science
  160. sense
  161. senses
  162. sewn
  163. shoe
  164. shoes
  165. shut
  166. silent
  167. simile
  168. similes
  169. simple
  170. sing
  171. singing
  172. sings
  173. sits
  174. size
  175. skin
  176. sky
  177. small
  178. son
  179. spaniel
  180. splinters
  181. square
  182. stage
  183. stair
  184. stillness
  185. stitched
  186. stop
  187. store
  188. surely
  189. table
  190. tacks
  191. takes
  192. talk
  193. tasting
  194. tend
  195. thinking
  196. thinner
  197. thoughtful
  198. time
  199. times
  200. tired
  201. torn
  202. tree
  203. true
  204. untrue
  205. vanish
  206. verbs
  207. waiting
  208. wake
  209. water
  210. waters
  211. ways
  212. whale
  213. wheel
  214. william
  215. words
  216. work
  217. world
  218. wrecked
  219. wrong
  220. wrote