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Dead metaphor

 

Techniques > Use of language > Metaphor > Dead metaphor

Method | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

A dead metaphor occurs where the once-evocative transferred image is no longer effective or even understood, perhaps being lost in the aeons of time.

Example

Fabulous was something worthy of fable. Like many other superlatives, it has lost its original edge and now just means 'good'.

Money was so called because it was first minted at the temple Juno Moneta.

The origin of 'the whole nine yards' seems unknown, even to an expert word website.

Discussion

Dead metaphors are dead in the sense that they no longer act as metaphors -- they just become plain words, with a simple functional meaning. In a sense, this is how language develops. Somebody tries to explain something by making up a word that conjures up an image, and eventually the word becomes a standard in the language, with it's original image being lost or evolved.

In the 'dumbing down' of language, the rich meaning of many words becomes lost, and thus many metaphors lose their meaning. To understand the metaphoric quality of many words requires that their origins are studied.

See also

Active metaphor

http://www.worldwidewords.org/index.htm

 

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