Chapter 3. Why mixed metaphors make sense

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This paper explores why speakers and addressees seem to have no problem in making sense of mixed metaphors. We will argue that the mixing of metaphors reveals something about the nature of conventionalized metaphoric meaning that is as interesting for cognitive linguists as speech errors are for psycholinguists. First, it shows that so-called dead metaphors are alive for speakers, second it reveals that people deal creatively with all the meaning facets of metaphoric meaning – including the uncommon ones, and third we will argue that the mixing of metaphors can be explained by assuming a dynamic view on metaphoric meaning making. This view suggests that rather than being static and fixed, metaphoric meaning is the product of a process of cognitively activating selected facets of source and target, or vehicle and tenor. As a consequence the mixing of metaphors is considered a result of a shifting focus of attention, or of dynamically foregrounding facets of meaning that are backgrounded in the common reading.


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