To give some idea of what it could mean for a concept to be metaphorical and for such a concept to structure an everyday activity, let us start with the concept argument and the conceptual metaphor argument is war. This metaphor is reflected in our everyday language by a wide variety of expressions:

  • Your claims are indefensible
  • He attacked every weak point in my argument
  • His criticisms were right on target
  • I demolished his argument
  • I’ve never won an argument with him
  • You disagree? Okay, shoot
  • If you use that strategy, he’ll wipe you out
  • He shot down all of my arguments

We don’t just talk about arguments in terms of war. We can actually win or lose arguments. We see the person we are arguing with as an opponent … Many of the things we do in arguing are partially structured by the concept of war.

Now, try to imagine a culture where arguments are not viewed in terms of war: where there is no sense of attacking or defending, gaining or losing ground. Imagine a culture where an argument is viewed as a dance, the participants are seen as performers, and the goal is to perform in a balanced and aesthetically pleasing way. People would view arguments differently, experience them differently, carry them out differently, and talk about them differently.

Argument is War

The most concise summary of the core idea behind Metaphors We Live By.

From George Lakoff

Ross Zurowski