Food for Thought…

My previous post – ‘Bitesize Read’, ‘feast your eyes’, etc. – recalled a passage from a book I read recently, The Unfolding of Language by Guy Deutscher:

You will certainly have encountered many similar images that use food terms to describe abstract ideas, thoughts, or emotions. People speak of troubles brewing, anger simmering, resentment boiling, fanaticism fermenting, employees seething (literally: ‘boiling’) with discontent [surely not]. People chew over new suggestions and digest new information; the masses swallow whatever lies the newspapers feed them; students regurgitate facts at the examination; children gobble up the latest Harry Potter book; fans devour reports of their idols’ private lives. We can have sweet dreams, bitter hatreds, sour relations, and half-baked ideas; and all this can give us some food for thought. So there is a well-established link in our minds between the two domains, which unites all the individual images into a broader conceptual metaphor: ‘ideas are food’.

Looking at language in this way, it’s fascinating what you discover. Like the word ‘discover’, for example. Today we don’t think of it as a metaphor – it’s just a word we use to mean that something has been found or found out. ‘It has been discovered that…’ And yet the word originally implied the physical act of dis-covering – removing the cover and seeing what’s underneath. But this sense, this picture in the mind, has gradually faded away: it has become, you might say, a dead metaphor, a fossil in the language landscape that we can dig up and examine but which is no longer a living image.

Anyway, enough of that. I hope Thursday’s treating you well. (Thursday: from the Old English meaning ‘Thor’s Day’ or ‘Day of Thor’, the God of thunder…)


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