The Compulsive Copyeditor

June 29, 2011

Intelligence Agency To Stockpile . . . Metaphors?

Filed under: figures of speech — amba12 @ 5:56 pm

Is this a joke?

Researchers with the US Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity [1] want to build a repository of metaphors. You read that right.  Not just American/English metaphors mind you but those of Iranian Farsi, Mexican Spanish and Russian speakers.

Why metaphors? “Metaphors have been known since Aristotle as poetic or rhetorical devices that are unique, creative instances of language artistry (for example: The world is a stage; Time is money). Over the last 30 years, metaphors have been shown to be pervasive in everyday language and to reveal how people in a culture define and understand the world around them,” IARPA says. . . .

In the end the program should produce a methodology, tools and techniques together with a prototype system that will identify metaphors that provide insight into cultural beliefs. It should also help build structured framework that organizes the metaphors associated with the various dimensions of an analytic problem and build a metaphor repository where all metaphors and related information are captured for future reference and access, IARPA stated.

Wait a minute, wait a minute.  “TIME IS MONEY” is NOT A METAPHOR!!!  @#&^!! government!  Can’t get anything right!

But wait — the entire Internet thinks “Time is money” is an example of a metaphor.  In fact, it’s the Internet’s favorite example of a metaphor.  I maintain it is something else, for which the term is lost in ancient books of the subtle art of rhetoric.

I didn’t find it there.  Can anybody help?



  1. Aphorism.

    Comment by Jason (the commenter) — June 29, 2011 @ 6:51 pm | Reply

    • That too, but something more . . . some kind of compression. If it were a metaphor, it would be saying “Time is like money,” but without the “like” (which makes it a specific, explicit kind of metaphor, a simile). It’s not comparing time to money (although in theory you could compare them, on the grounds that there’s not enough of either, or they both run through your fingers, or . . .). It’s compressing a complex thought — “Your time is valuable, when you waste time you literally waste money” — into its shortest possible form. What’s the word for that operation?

      Comment by amba12 — June 29, 2011 @ 7:10 pm | Reply

  2. “Time flies”: accompanied by picture of person standing there with a stopwatch while flies buzz around.

    Comment by amba12 — June 29, 2011 @ 7:14 pm | Reply

  3. Conceptual metaphor?

    Comment by Charlie Martin — June 29, 2011 @ 7:35 pm | Reply

  4. Perhaps if we thought of some other examples?

    “Red is the new black.”

    “Meat is murder.”

    Here’s a long list I don’t want to go through (may be of help though):

    Comment by Jason (the commenter) — June 29, 2011 @ 8:51 pm | Reply

  5. “Meat is murder” is very close to the same thing. It’s not a metaphor, it’s a very concise statement of a point of view. And they’re both sort of polemical. People saying both things are shaking a finger in your face. Micropolemic.

    Comment by amba12 — June 29, 2011 @ 10:27 pm | Reply

  6. Epiphany?

    Comment by chickelit — July 5, 2011 @ 2:55 am | Reply

  7. Yikes, I am locking my metaphors up!
    (Any intel on whether they hunting for similes too?)

    Comment by NavyOne — July 25, 2011 @ 11:33 pm | Reply

    • Similes ARE a subset of metaphors. So yes, lock up your similes too!

      Comment by amba12 — November 21, 2011 @ 9:02 am | Reply

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