All the world’s a stage

The title of today’s post is an example of a metaphor from Shakespeare’s As You Like It. The full version is:

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players
They have their exits and their entrances;

According to Wikipedia, a metaphor, from the Greek: μεταφεριν (metapherin) – “to carry something across” or “transfer”, is a rhetorical trope defined as a direct comparison between two or more seemingly unrelated subjects. A trope is a figure of speech consisting of a play on words.

There are a number of different types of metaphors:

Extended metaphors, which set up a principal subject with several subsidiary subjects or comparisons. The above quote from Shakespeare is a good example of this.

Epic or Homeric similes are extended metaphors containing details about the vehicle that are not, in fact, necessary for the metaphoric purpose. An example of this from Black Adder is: “This is a crisis. A large crisis. In fact, if you’ve got a moment, it’s a twelve-story crisis with a magnificent entrance hall, carpeting throughout, 24-hour porterage and an enormous sign on the roof saying ‘This Is a Large Crisis’.”

Mixed metaphors combine parts of two or more unrelated metaphors together creating a nonsensical but often amusing image. For example, “look before you bark up the wrong end of the stick”, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it spoil the broth” and “They’re biting the hand of the goose that laid the golden egg”, from Samuel Goldwyn.

Dead metaphors started life as metaphors but over time have lost their metaphoric nature and become ordinary expressions. Examples include “to grasp a idea”, “arm of a chair” and “leg of a table”.

Have you mixed an metaphors or heard any metaphoric mixing being committed recently?

This entry was posted in English, Language, Words and phrases.

One Response to All the world’s a stage

  1. Polly says:

    A Black Adder reference, wow! I thought I was the only one who ever saw that show. Everyone I know recognizes Rowan Atkinson only as “Mr. Bean,” which I thought was a less funny series.

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