According to Professor George Lakoff, metaphors are a way to think and reason about life. They are not a unique way to speak about it because they are a reflection of our thought process (1986). This became immediately apparent to me when I began looking for metaphors commonly used. It took some time to find any because they were pervasive of my thought system that I did not even notice many ordinary phrases around me were metaphors. Those phrases were not “poetic or rhetorical” way of talking, but an ordinary way to express my thoughts and speak about my view of the world. The metaphor that came up several times on my search was “deep roots.” This metaphor allows us to think about life in a certain way and it also holds certain implication for our interpersonal communication.
While catching up on the world news, I came across a story about Shakila, a young Afghanistan girl. She was kidnapped at the young age of eight and held for two years (she managed to escape) as a form of repayment for the wrong her family elder committed. This tradition known as baad or baadi was a “deeply rooted cultural practice” in the country (Rubin, 2012, p. A1). This was an insightful way to talk about a long held tradition. How did this phrase make sense even when the article was not even talking about growing plants or even their root system? Metaphors create meaning by conveying an experience in a domain through understanding of another domain. The experience is “map[ped] from a source domain to a target domain” (Lakoff, 1986, p. 216). For the metaphor, deep roots, the source domain is roots while the target domain is history. The knowledge we have about each domain and their corresponding elements allows us to assemble a metaphor.
Knowledge we have about roots:
Plants put down roots to establish themselves.
Deep roots take a long time to develop.
Deeply rooted plants can live a long time and they are hard to remove.
Knowledge we have about history:
It is a long passage of time.
It is the background of a person or thing.
It is a record of the past and the past influences the present.
The corresponding elements between the two domains:
The passage of time corresponds to depth of the roots.
The roots’ depth corresponds to a firmly placed entity.
The state of putting down deep roots corresponds to establishing an entity.
Now, putting together our understanding about each domain allows us to make sense of this metaphor. Just as roots take a long time to grow and establish a plant, an entity that is deeply rooted has been ongoing for a long time and firmly fixed in reality. This metaphor can be used either to talk about the past or the future aspects of our lives. A rooted entity is one that has been already established while an entity that will be rooted is one that will be established.
An article from Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) is a good example of using the root metaphor to convey something about the past. The foundation’s goal is to...