Unexpected metaphors

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Metaphoric gestures are ‘expected’ in the sense that the metaphoric image is predictable from cultural standards, such as those found in many verbal examples (cf. the ‘cup of meaning’ image in both “the film had no content” and a gesture formed with a palm upright open hand). But many metaphoric gestures are ‘unexpected’ – iconic gestures that are revealed to be metaphoric only when the function of the gesture is examined in the surrounding discourse. I illustrate three unexpected metaphors: a gesture depicting a bowling ball being thrust down, a metaphor for the idea of an antagonistic force; a series of gestures of one character trying to reach another, a metaphor for inaccessibility; and a spatial contrast presenting the idea of a contrast itself. None of these metaphors draws on canonical or cultural metaphoric schemas. Unexpected metaphors show a proclivity for making virtually any concrete image a vehicle for something else, even when the image is not among the canonical metaphoric images of a culture.


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