we think of metaphors, elaborate, fancy expressions
out of literature books readily come to our minds,
which result from a creative and conscious effort,
and whose sole purpose is to substitute a literal
expression and has the function to make a comparison:
Tua cabeça é uma dália que
se desfolha em meus braços. (Mário
da Silva Brito)
For what is death but an eternal sleep? (Aristophanes)
In headaches and in worry vaguely life leaks
away. ( W.H.Auden).
This idea of metaphor as a mere substitute for a
literal expression for aesthetic reasons is looked
upon nowadays as reductionist because studies show
that our everyday language, both Portuguese and English,
is packed with expressions that, at first sight,
do not seem metaphorical at all:
Perdi muito tempo procurando meus óculos.
Você deve reservar mais tempo para cuidar da
Eu gastei muito tempo para corrigir as provas.
Não invista muito tempo nesta garota.
Você está desperdiçando o seu tempo.
Can you spare me a couple of minutes?
I can’t afford taking so much time
I saved a lot of time.
On a closer examination, however, the expressions
above listed show us that the words in bold type,
in each of the expressions, are not being used
in their literal sense. For example, we know that
big investors can lose money on the stock market;
you can save/put aside some money to travel; perhaps
you cannot afford a brand new car or spend a great
deal of money on a new dress. These words in their
literal sense, as we have just seen, are used to
talk about money and not time as in the sentences
first mentioned. It is money that we usually lose,
save, put aside, give, spend, invent and splurge.
How then to explain the reason we use language
from one domain (time) to talk about another one
In 1980, the American linguist George Lakoff and
the philosopher Mark Johnson published the book “Metaphors
We Live By” where they say that certain abstract
concepts, such as human emotions, mental processes,
time, personal relationships, etc., that are difficult
to be understood in their own terms are, most of
the time, understood via metaphor, that is, indirectly.
Therefore, the essence of metaphor, in the experientialist
view of Lakoff and Johnson, is “to understand
and experience one thing in terms of another” (
Lakoff and Johnson, 1980).
With that in mind, the sentences we looked at,
that is, those which contain the non-literal use
of the verbs perder, reservar, gastar, invistir,
desperdiçar, spare, afford and save and
don’t strike us as metaphorical anymore due
to the process of institutionalization, are only
generated because there are metaphors in our conceptual
system that, in turn, are the result of our interaction
with the world we live in. In other words, “metaphor
is possible in language because it is present in
the mind” (Ponterotto, 1994).
Metaphor, which was once looked upon as a purely
linguistic phenomenon, became part and parcel of
our conceptual system. Therefore, we can say that “two
levels of metaphor are distinguished: conceptual
and linguistic metaphors” (Deignan et al.,1997).
The former, which we are hardly conscious of, are
reflected on our conventional way of talking about
things, be it by means of what is traditionally
regarded as metaphorical language as in He is a
peach of a boy, in which the word peach is not
used in its literal sense, or by language which
is regarded, in the traditional view, to be literal,
i.e. Eu gastei muito tempo para corrigir as provas.
The exercises on the handouts prepared for this
workshop deal with metaphors in both senses.
Since our conceptual system is something we have
no direct access to, Lakoff and Johnson make use
of something palpable, tangible such as linguistic
expressions to gain access to it because they are
believed to be “the spoken and written realizations
of a conceptual metaphor” (Deignan et al.
And going back to the six linguistic expressions,
which were listed at the beginning, we can claim
that, in the light of the theory of Lakoff and
Johnson, the concept of time is systematically
and regularly expressed linguistically in terms
of the concept of money. Therefore, we have the
conceptual metaphor TIME IS MONEY. This metaphor,
as well as many others that have been revealed
in studies inspired by the theory of Lakoff and
Johnson such as Kovecses (1986), on the concept
of anger, pride and love, Bowles (1995), about
the relation between enthusiasm/heat and conflict/
heat, Lima (1995), about the metaphorical use of
the word head, Bowles (1997), about the characterization
of censure, Divardin (2000), about the metaphorical
use of the word heart/coração in
Portuguese and English (from which most of the
sentences and conceptual metaphors for this workshop
were taken) , not only generate linguistic expressions,
but also seem to have a great influence in the
way we think and act. Therefore, metaphor is not
only a matter of words; it is a cognitive operation
of extreme importance that we make use everyday
in our attempt to understand better the world and
the experiences we live here.
After paving my way with a few stepping stones that,
hopefully, help you to understand the most important
points of the theory that serves as the rationale
behind the activities presented in the workshop (to
be listed later), let us now examine, as a means
of illustrating what has been said so far, the following
set of English and Portuguese expressions, in all
of which the word heart is used metaphorically, so
as to determine what they have in common, i.e., what
allows them to be grouped together because, at first
glance, they seem to belong to a chaotic and disorganized
Ela tem mágoa no coração.
Ele saiu do meu coração.
Nossos corações estão transbordando
The news filled my heart with joy.
No doubt that a mother’s heart is big and
always has room for one more.
She poured out her heart.